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Dispensing with practicality

An effective dispensing system does more than cleanly deliver product contents - it can be used to manage profits, extend ranges and create innovation. To out-deliver the competition, introduce a well-designed dispenser, experts tell Joanne Hunter

In highly competitive markets there is a great need for packaging that delivers more than the competition. First comes the strong brand identity and shelf impact which entice shoppers to buy. Secondly, and arguably more importantly, pack designers must deliver a container that is a joy to use and is part of a “complete package” that encourages repeat purchasing and brand loyalty.

Using a dispenser within a closure system has many benefits – practical and financial – some that users enjoy and others that are appreciated by the brand owner and private label owner.

All kinds of advantages flow from a more carefully controlled evacuation of product. The obvious one is the avoidance of mess and improved hygiene. In the home, in catering and in surgeries and hospitals, this offers a big plus. For the consumer a dispenser pleases through its ease of use; produces the feeling of added value. “It does the job of dispensing the product for me and elevates its worth,” says Mark Box, managing director of Rieke Packaging Systems.

A dispenser encourages the economical use of an expensive product and ensures doses are not exceeded. Large packs with dispensers are perfectly designed for multiple product applications – from soaps and shampoos to sauces – because they offer maximum hygiene. A reusable dispenser component is a perfect solution for economical refill packs, says Box. If consumers do not give a dispenser a second thought, this is ironically the best demonstration of its effectiveness and a compliment to the design of a reliable, user-friendly pack.

An extensive choice of dispenser shapes is available. They can be personalised to individual brands through the use of masterbatches for the dispenser components, special finishes such as metallising, soft-touch materials, or the printing of brand names and messages.

Different versions of the same pump dispenser offer a stylised head for practical purposes, as in hand sanitisers for hospital use. They are designed with longer or shorter necks to suit the location and technical requirements. Brands also like a stylised head for aesthetic reasons. To be different on the shelf and in use is an “aide memoire” – if you like it, you will remember the particular brand and buy it again.

Dispenser systems have also ushered in foaming technology, giving further consumer advantages. A foamer draws product from the container and mixes it with air at the point of dispense to enable it to foam without conventional aerosol technology. Foamed product is perceived to feel better when applied and its efficacy is spread more easily over the skin.

Without the foaming dispenser technology certain products would not exist says Box: “It has created a market.” Firstly, he says, it has allowed the brand owner to grow personal toiletry and hygiene product ranges. A foaming soap, which is cheaply produced product, can lead the market. A new arrival generates sales. According to Box: “Innovation offers something different, getting a six-month lead on an own-label brand.” It brings competition: the brand owner starts a race in which an own-label is playing catch-up.

Liquid soap did not exist 10 years ago and foamers not until five to seven years ago, observes Box, and look at the inroads they have made. “The many millions of consumers that buy pump dispensed products cannot be wrong, otherwise there would not be a market for it,” reasons Box.

Rieke is interested in innovation as a means to build up an entire market segment to create an “educated” public. A public with raised expectations wants more comfort and choice in life. Starbucks has driven sales through range of choice – pump dispensers issue flavourings to add to coffee. But as important to Starbucks, a profit-seeking business, is portion control. According to Box at least 90% of skin medication is inappropriately dosed.

User-friendly features include a long reach option to go with large packs and a universal closure or large lid adaptor to enable pumps to be used with a variety of containers. Pumps are available that will lock in the down position for safer transportation and then re-lock in the up position after opening. Tamper-evident and child-resistant options keep product secure and prevent unwanted “sampling” ahead of purchase. However, the greater challenge facing dispenser manufacturers is in the characteristics of the products to be dispensed. Competitive markets and demanding consumers drive manufacturers to respond with products to differentiate their brands from rival brands. This creates a need for products that are more sophisticated and complex, which nevertheless still need to be dispensed easily and accurately.

Viscosity is a key feature of many personal care brands. A pump for a shampoo needs to dispense with minimal effort and return quickly to its start primed position. Highly viscous creams and lotions are not self-levelling and require special systems to ensure total evacuation from their containers.

A move away from additives and preservatives means products need protection to prolong shelf life. The dispensing industry has introduced non-metal contact construction and systems that stop air entering a container as the product is pumped out. “A dispensing system with an EVOH barrier can be used where products have limited preservatives, for formulations with a highly active content and fragile formulas when a product is packed into an airless container,” says Patrick Poitevin, packaging development and innovation manager at cosmetics and toiletries firm Creative Outsourcing Solutions International (COSi), of Littlehampton, UK. “An internal polypropylene (PP) cartridge in a pack gives excellent product compatibility and creates a high-performance, luxury packaging system,” he adds.

Airless containers on the market offer numerous shapes and aesthetics yet generally host a similar dispensing system. “An interchangeable dual-cartridge dispensing system is a move on from this and shifts the concept on to a new level,” says Poitevin.

PP cartridges achieve more than compatibility and with a SAN clear body the pack also gains visual appeal. Its functioning improves by having a single actuator and a single dispensing nozzle for a 50/50 equal dispensing and mixing pump. The smooth and soft actuator system is good for lotions as well as creams. The pump engine performs a smooth and light action and the cartridge fixes with a 900 lock and reverses for removal. The small caps on the cartridge have an induction seal, which is pierced during pack assembly to make the pack, in Poitevin’s view, “wholly tamper-proof and hygienic”.

The interchangeable dual-cartridge system, developed by COSi, packaging suppliers Quadpack/Yonwoo and the design studio WCB, cuts actuation pressure by almost 25%. The absence of a steel ball and the spring located outside of the pump mechanism, makes it suitable for products that oxidize on contact with steel. Compared with the older pump generation, the new pump is reportedly almost three times as powerful, overcomes air bubbles and works with a wide range of, and changing, product viscosities. The pump engine can pump high viscose creams that could previously only be packed in jars.

The valve pump engine has other advantages. The housing hole is always firmly covered and stops air filtering into the bottle by vacuum action. Through atmospheric pressure, the pump is pulled up and opened to allow the product to be sucked into it. After pressure is released, the valve pump returns to its original position via tension and the hole is closed completely.

Genus Pharmaceuticals, an NHS and retail pharmacy sector supplier of variously sourced products, uses the Airless High Viscosity Dispensing System (HVDS) from Rieke Dispensing, which boasts a minimum 98% product evacuation, in Cetraben, an emollient cream for dermatological conditions. The robust 4g pump includes a useful content indicator to show how much is left, says Genus.

The Rexam Symplicity 2ml lotion pump with 24/410 neck was used for the launch of aspire2tan Spray Tanning Solution in the UK. The all-plastic pump is said to be suitable for “even the most advanced formulations” of suncare, bodycare, baby and children’s products, as well as for bath and shower lotions, and is water-resistant to preserve ingredient integrity. “The dispenser distinguishes our product with consumers as well as on the retail shelf,” says Lauren Tuxford, owner of aspire2beauty. “The soft-touch actuator feels smooth and comfortable and delivers a high-quality experience for our customers.” She rates the choice of the 2ml pump, paired with a 250ml M&H PET bottle, as important as the ingredients in the bottle.

Moving on to food and drink markets, a syrup or thick sauce needs a different type of valve inside the pump to more free-running liquids. A Rieke solution, for example, offers an extra-strong spring or a wide-bore design to help handle highly viscous products and products containing particulates.

Efficient dispensing plays just one key part in a product’s success. Manufacturers give careful consideration to all that is required of their dispenser so the dispenser manufacturer can devise a solution to meet all product and branding expectations.

Wizz Products, to give “an appearance completely different to standardised trigger bottles used in the household cleaning market”, used an eye-catching trigger spray by Guala Dispensing to re-launch its household cleaners. The 825ml bottle is blowmoulded by RPC Llantrisant and fitted with a Guala TS3 differentiated by a shroud with a two-part construction and colour-matched for a strong on-shelf branding. A wider lever requires a softer actuation force to deliver a consistent 1.3ml dose. Visually, the trigger complements the bottle’s curved shape and has a tactile quality thanks to “swirling” ridges and a raised Wizz logo on the neck. Wizz has exclusivity in the UK, Eire and Scandinavia to use the new Guala Trigger.

Catalysts for innovation and new product development come in numerous forms, including tightening up of airport security. An American customer called on Precise Plastics of Lymington in the UK for a clear 50ml bottle for travel products small enough to be taken through airport security. Currently packages over 100ml must be checked in. The PET container can be fitted with a spray or uplocking treatment pump.

In the past year Precise Plastics, with Crown Polyflex and pump supplier Emsar, has developed a new 15ml Venise pack based on the snap-on treatment pump system and a moulded thread in the bottle wall with an injection moulded sleeve. The sleeve is designed to give a click when it is turned and reaches either the high position where the actuator is hidden and protected, or the low and open position, meaning the unit can be opened, closed and operated with one hand.

Ty Nant Spring Water, famed for its cobalt blue glass and curvy PET bottles, has added “outer refreshment” with a new refreshment spray thanks to a snap-on pump spray by Precise Plastics. When temperatures soar the “sexy” spray can be used for a refreshing spritz of water.

For fast-moving development Neville and More is offering flexibility of supply for a “state-of-the-art” spray dispenser for personal care, healthcare, household and chemical and industrial products. Even high viscosity and difficult formulations are easily dispensed by the Mark V11, which features a contemporary look with stylised head and a version for “upside-down” use. Neville and More stocks several colours, can deliver very low minimum order quantities within “a couple of days”, with a dip tube cut to exact length. The firm also markets a mini-trigger version to add a modern funky style.

A quite different mode of dispensing is set to end wrestling matches with challenging sachets to put sauce on chips or dressing on salad, thanks to contract packer Budelpack. The Easysnap single-dose sachet is designed to dispense small portions of liquids without the need for tearing. It comes in three sizes for volumes between 2ml and 20ml and is suitable for non-foods including shampoo. An Easysnap sachet resembles a narrow credit card – one side is made from flexible film and the other from rigid perforated plastic “card”, which splits down the middle when pressure is applied.

Holding the pack between two fingers, the consumer snaps the sachet in half to release the liquid in a controlled way through a central aperture. To fully dispense the two ends of the card are squeezed together. The sachet produced on an Italian-made Easypack Solutions machine is an “ideal strategic marketing tool for brand owners and a perfect product for promotional campaigns”, says Budelpack.

Contact details

Budelpack International
T: +31 (0)164 215010

Guala Dispensing
T: + 44 (0)1666 500427 E:

T. +44 (0)870 330 0800

T:+ 82 032 575 8811

Neville and More
T: +44 (0)1403 732290

Precise Plastics
T:+44 (0)1590 626 233 E:

Rexam Dispensing Systems
T: +1 718 398 4009

Rieke Packaging Systems
T: +44 116 233 1100

RPC Llantrisant
T: +44 (0)1443 225520 E:

The Rexam Symplicity 2ml lotion pump with 24/410 neck was used for the launch aspire2tan Spray Tanning Solution Ty Nant Spring Water has added “outer refreshment” with a refreshment spray featuring a snap-on pump spray from Precise Plastics High viscosity and difficult formulations are said to be easily spray dispensed by the Mark V11from Neville and More. The company also markets a mini trigger version to for a modern style The Easysnap single-dose sachet, from contract packer Budelpack, is designed to dispense small portions of liquids without need for tearing Genus Pharmaceuticals uses the Airless High Viscosity Dispensing System (HVDS) from Rieke Dispensing The Relaunched Wizz Products used a Guala TS3 to give “an appearance completely different to standardised trigger bottles used in the household cleaning market”