The interview below was originally published in the Plastic Caps and Closures Market Report by Plastics News.
Q: How have trends in materials and technology evolved over the last five to 10 years relative to the design and production of plastic caps and closures?
A: Stemming from consumers’ busy lifestyles and demand for more sustainable solutions, along with convenience, CPGs have called upon their partners to develop innovative solutions. Like Aptar, many packaging companies are offering PCR and other more sustainable resins; however, their limited offering and cost can still be a big barrier for adoption. Therefore, in parallel to these material initiatives, Aptar has also been working on technologies like “Stay-With” where the tamper band stays attached to the bottle throughout its life cycle, further ensuring it won’t get lost once the package is disposed.
Q: In 2018, what is fueling growth in the caps and closures segment in North America?
A: With consumers demanding further convenience, we see brands investing more in functional dispensing solutions. By converting non-functional packages into convenient dispensing solutions, consumers can get maximum value and functionality out of their products. When positive packaging feedback is given, it sparks continued growth in the caps and closures segment. A key example is the Daisy sour cream inverted flexible dispensing pack. Not only does Daisy stand out on the shelf, but consumers clearly appreciate the ease of use the new package brings. Another example is improving the consumer experience in moving from unspouted to spouted pouches in granular categories such as sugars and sweeteners, seeds, snacks, and others, where EZ Pour can provide great value. In addition, the caps and closure market represents a great vehicle to embed connectivity in consumers’ everyday life and further enhance brand-consumer engagement through data management and instant feedback. Aptar has recently introduced a new line of connected solutions (cDevices) for the pharma market, which provide convenience and actionable feedback to patients and providers.
Q: Lightweighting continues to be a key market trend. With a goal of getting more performance out of a cap that weighs less, what role do materials play in product development?
A: Materials play a key role in product development, closure performance, and functionality. Aptar is constantly investing in research and development both internally and through partnerships in order to have access to the best material technology and deliver top-of-the-line solutions. We tap into expertise around the world to develop custom innovations with a variety of thermoplastic resins. Given that the discussion on material weight is mainly dependent on packaging type, end-user needs, nature of each product, and distribution channels, resin reduction and light-weighting technology is an integral part of our product development process.
Q: How is Aptar able to tailor product solutions toward a customer’s specific needs?
A: Overall, we keep the end user at the forefront of our work. By studying consumer behavior, we can identify the challenges they face and create concepts to address them. Aptar has technology platforms to support customers and tailor solutions to each specific need. These concepts are then presented to consumers in order to get insights before moving onto final solutions.
Q: E-commerce is more than just a trend and processors must develop products that will ensure products arrive safely, without leakage or other issues. How is e-commerce impacting the design and production of caps, closures and fitments?
A: The fast growth of e-commerce is pushing brands to rethink their packaging, which was originally designed for the traditional and simple brick-and-mortar supply chain. When combining the new challenges packaging faces today with what lightweighting packaging went through during the past several years, it is easy to understand why many companies struggle to find solutions. In fact, most CPGs assume excessive protective packaging will solve the issue, but this approach does not address the root cause and impacts bottom lines and the environment. In-depth technical expertise in this area, in addition to industry knowledge and application experience, has enabled us to deliver solutions that address the challenges CPGs are facing. Brands should look for suppliers that focus on solutions for primary packaging that not only suit the needs of the traditional supply chain, but also of the e-commerce supply chain. A holistic approach is needed to develop simple and elegant solutions that ensure great consumer experience, and in turn, increase brand loyalty.
Q: Aptar has developed an innovative preservative-free multidose squeeze dispenser. How is this and products like it shifting the landscape in caps and closures today?
A: Science suggests that preservatives have significant side effects that can harm patients and consumers. Within its Pharma segment, Aptar has developed expertise around dispensing systems suitable to handle non-preserved formulations as well as those with a reduced preservative concentration. Aptar’s Multidose Preservative Free Dropper, for example, made a huge impact in the ophthalmic industry. Dispensing systems for unpreserved medications are a clear must-have in Europe and Latin America, but are also catching increasing attention, and shelf space, in the US. We see the Multidose Preservative Free Dropper on consumer products, such as Prestige Brands’ Clear Eyes®, but also on prescription medications, such as Allergan’s Restasis®, contributing to a shift in perception of the US consumer and patient. Restasis® is the first and only ophthalmic medication with this new technology that has been successfully reviewed and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The unpreserved product trend is progressing to sensitive topical dermal applications as well, which is also following the trend of reduced preservatives in creams and formulations for skin. It has become an important element of brand differentiation.
Q: How are trends toward pouches impacting trends in the design of caps and closures today? What innovations is Aptar developing in this area, such as its EZ Pour?
A: Brands and consumers are increasingly preferring flexible packaging over rigid packaging and non-functional flexible formats due to the many benefits that lead to added convenience. Solutions that provide easy-to-open and reseal, hygienic and precise dispensing are good examples of solving consumers’ needs through a standup pouch format.
Q: Dispensing systems are a key area as consumers seek products that offer security and simplicity. What are some of the trends and opportunities we see today in dispensing closures to meet market demands?
A: Consumers want packaging that is easy and intuitive to use, safe, cost-effective, and sustainable. Consumers are seeking healthier products, buying online, and consuming them on-the-go. These trends are changing the way they interact with packaging. Dispensing solutions play a key role in providing consumers a safe and convenient experience with their favorite products and brands. Advancing tamper-evident designs continues to be of monumental importance, especially to food and beverage packaging. Tamper-evident designs should provide a clear visual indication if the package has been violated. In addition, having a reliable sealing system in place and adding counterfeit deterrent features also play a big role in providing product safety. Aptar’s BAP (Bonded Aluminum to Plastic) is a great sealing and counterfeit deterrent technology that is applicable to a variety of categories and packaging formats. Besides giving consumers the peace of mind of a safe product, it also gives brands the opportunity to accentuate their brands and delight consumers through packaging innovation.
Q: What is essential to driving value across the plastics supply chain today, and more specifically, within the caps and closures segment?
A: Product functionality, as well as the shape and size of the pouch, comes into play when choosing the right closure and the features it must deliver. A great example of driving value across the supply chain is found in the building and launch of the Standcap inverted premade pouch. The packaging is a result of a cooperation between film, pouch converting, closure suppliers, and co-packers to ensure a success for the brand. The Standcap inverted premade pouch provided by Glenroy is an example where the functionality of the pouch can influence the design, shape, dispensing performance of the closure system. Aptar provides the closure with the choice of various SimpliSqueeze® valves, and the ring pull tamper evident fitment.
Q: Sustainability remains a key focus on the caps segment today. What innovations are enhancing the recyclability of caps and closures?
A: Flip top solutions can provide a new sustainable option for consumers. Using the product without needing to remove the closure from the package enables the closure to go through the correct recycling stream. In addition, it supports CA Bill 319’s sustainability mission of increasing the percentage of closures recycled and reducing loose closures in nature. One example is our technology called “Stay-With” where the tamper band stays attached to the bottle throughout its life cycle, further ensuring it won’t get lost once the package is disposed.
Q: How are materials impacting design and innovation in caps and closures?
A: Choosing the right materials, especially resin grades, is very important in the design and functionality of closures. Options such as EZ Pour for stand-up pouches are a great example where onepiece dispensing features incorporate an easy-to-remove ring pull tamper evident membrane while providing rigidity and strength to the flip lid hinge. In addition, the resin choice needs to be compatible with film laminates to ensure security and seal integrity to the pouch. With the use of special resins, we’ve been successful in significantly reducing plastic by moving from the common two-piece overcap and spout design to a feature-rich, one-piece design.
Q: What is your outlook for the North American caps and closures market in the year ahead?
A: As consumers continue to demand convenience and functionality from their packaging, we expect to see a continued acceleration of the conversion of non-functional packaging to functional formats such as dispensing spouts on stand-up pouches, dispensing closures, and dispensing pumps. In addition, we will continue to see brands pursuing more sustainable packaging solutions that help them achieve their sustainability goals, as well as provide environmentally-focused consumers with solutions that fit their lifestyles.
Dave Johnson is the director of global business development, flexibles at Aptar Food + Beverage and has been with the company for more than 10 years. Dave drives new market and product development opportunities and leads a cross-functional team of sales, product development, and operations at the company. With over 10 years of industry experience, Dave is a regular presenter on packaging innovations and solutions at global conferences, such as Global Pouch Forum and Plastic Caps and Closures.