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Tampering with the evidence

Having to contend with everything from on-shelf sampling to countering sabotage, tamper-evident packaging has become the de facto industry standard reports Des King

Yesterday’s smart idea has a habit of becoming tomorrow’s commonplace habit. Tamper-evident caps, closures, seals and sleeves are now de rigueur in deterring the suck it and see shopper, the criminally deranged or the counterfeiter.

Despite the apparent nostalgia amongst third age consumers, at least for the paper bag, most packs incorporate tamper evidence to some extent. Indeed, in the consumer’s mind’s eye it’s become accepted as a benchmark for freshness and mint condition.

“Consumers want the security of knowing that what they’ve got is the genuine article and not a fake. If a pack looks as though it’s been played with, most people will select another one from the shelf,” observes Inprint business development director Andrew Walker. “I don’t know who foots the bill every time that happens – the retailer or Lever Faberge or whoever – but what’s the on-cost of all that?

The dichotomy facing packaging manufacturers is to balance security with ease of openability and to provide a solution that meets increasingly stringent cost criteria.

According to Bericap sales director Jeremy Brook, the decision to opt for a non-tamper-evident cap doesn’t achieve any significant savings.

“There are very few food products that don’t incorporate tamper evidence within their packaging. Most of the closures we make would incorporate it in some form, whether it’s a tear band, a drop ring or something similar.

“The difference between a cap that is tamper-evident and one that is not in terms of cost is not vast. I don’t think you would have a non-tamper-evident cap to save money. If you have not included the tamper evidence mechanism from the outset then you might be into additional tooling costs on caps and bottles. Otherwise, there is no on-cost incurred.”

Real or perceived, the prospect of additional cost is enabling the extended use of sleeving to come increasingly into contention as a practical, affordable form of tamper evidence.

“I don’t know the cost of tamper-evident closures versus standard closures, but I’d guess they’d be more expensive,” says Fuji Seal r+d manager Sia Memarnia.

“A benefit with sleeving is that instead of having to maybe use different coloured closures, you can standardise on say white. The colour of the cap is not going to be that noticeable. Also, it will increase shelf impact as it’s then possible to extend the design over the cap, something that couldn’t be technically achieved if the cap had the design printed on it because orientation would have been a major issue.”

The need to be flexible has also encouraged leaflet-label manufacturers to take a closer look at providing tamper evidence, says Inprint’s Andrew Walker.

“We’re getting quite a lot of requests to build things into leaflet labels, and there’s a growing demand for tamper evidence to be part of a total solution. It’s an extension that we’re looking at very positively.

“On some of these packs all you need is something that goes over the cap. What you want is an adhesive that bonds perfectly well and that you cannot lift up. We had a cosmetics house here the other week looking to introduce tamper evidence and, when we gave them a very basic solution [a shaped piece that covers the top and has little cuts in it for ease of openability but will make it very obvious if someone’s tampered with it], they agreed that’s all they wanted. At the moment, someone can just unscrew the cap, stick their fingers in the cream and then screw the cap back on again.”

Walker’s view is that the market is primarily looking for tamper-evident solutions that are simple but effective. “Some of the solutions on the market look as though they’ve incurred quite heavy tooling costs. But there are also plenty of quite straightforward ones as well, including fairly standard plastic labels with perforations and cuts in them or shrink films that just go over the top and which have got perforations to help you get in. I think there’s actually quite a good mix of common sense stuff about. At the end of the day you have to consider what’s your pack cost against what’s the product and what’s inside it.”

Denny Brothers managing director Barry Denny agrees that there’s plenty of potential in extending the role of the leaflet label. “We’ve done this with cartons where the label can extend around the corner and onto the lid, effectively providing tamper evidence at a very low cost, particularly if they’ve got to produce a leaflet label anyway.

“It’s just an intelligent extension of the solution’s primary purpose. We’ve done this sort of work primarily in healthcare situations.”

Closure manufacturers might take an understandably dismissive attitude. “The idea of extending the label and putting it over the cap is a pretty primitive form of tamper evidence,” comments Bericap’s Jeremy Brook. “I think people use it as a last resort. It’s certainly not the most effective method.” Even so, it’s a route that suppliers such as Inprint and Denny are certain to be taking more often in future.

Meanwhile, all manufacturers agree that anti-counterfeiting is emerging as the major driver in the sector. Sleever International, one of the technology pioneers behind intelligent labelling, has developed an extensive portfolio of services in tamper-evident proofing including theft protection, product authentification, traceability and anti-counterfeiting. The company is now supplying shrink sleeves with complementary technologies such as RFID and holograms.

Sleever’s Holosleeve concept combines high-tech holograms with tamper-evident systems to authenticate high value products and to expose fraud and opening attempts. “Holograms have been used very effectively on global spirit brands such as Hennessy, Remy Martin and Cognac’s Martell. We are delighted that our expertise coupled with the latest technology attracts global brands to Sleever,” comments European sales director Eric Masson.

“I really see that anti-counterfeiting and tamper-evidence are very similar animals. One is leading to the other in terms of basically establishing the security of the product,” says Andrew Walker. “We’re seeing counterfeited chemicals and drugs that even have counterfeited leaflet labels on them. Some of them are so crude that they are two pieces of paper taped together. Intellectual property doesn’t mean a thing in some parts of the world.”

Enabling openability is the other critical issue according to Jeremy Brook. “People want tamper evidence but they don’t want to compromise on the use of the pack. There’s not much point in having it tamper-evident if people find it difficult to get into. Achieving this balance is one of the areas in which we’ve invested a lot of money. We have developed slit tamper-evident bands. With these filler packers don’t mould the bridges in the tamper-evident band. They put them in as a separate operation, after the moulding process, with a rotating blade. We have proven it to be a method that gives a more reliable and usually easier to open solution rather the straightforward moulded band.”

Unilever has adopted a Bericap self-piercing plastic closure for its mayonnaise Calve in the Netherlands. The concept was developed to meet Unilever’s request for added consumer convenience and entails no need to unscrew the closure and peel off the foil like most existing ketchup or mayonnaise bottles on the market. Once the tamper-evident band is removed, a small knife located inside the closure simply pierces the aluminium foil and the flip-top cap is hinged for single-handed opening.

Independent packaging inventor Mark Sheahan is also turning his attention to multi-functional tamper-evident closures within the confectionery market.

“There are plenty of packs on the market that aren’t truly tamper-evident,” says Sheahan. “If you are careful enough some of the shrink wrapping can be removed, the product interfered with and then replaced, and no-one would know the difference. Some confectionery packs are really quite vulnerable.”

Sheahan’s patented Popi concept has been designed with a view to supersede the small cardboard tubes which have a plastic removable lid at one end and cardboard stopper at the other. In other words, think Smarties.

“We’ve included a number of new key elements into this new pack concept that would make it safer, harder to counterfeit and be more fun for kids. For safety we have incorporated clear and effective tamper evidence and fluted a removable flip-lid so, if it was swallowed, a child could breathe through it.

“Counterfeiting is prevented by use of a holographic tag for the tamper evidence. We’ve also built in a hidden ‘pop’ opening action, and telescope concept by having a de-bossed 3D picture on the inside of the plastic end cover that children would find both entertaining and collectable.”

In terms of cost the Popi concept isn’t that much more expensive than existing structures, says Sheahan, who is already in discussion with leading confectionery manufacturers to progress adoption of the pack.