When the first wave of the pandemic hit in early 2020, it would have been nice to have had a crystal ball available to guide the industry through the chaos to come. But the truth is, it wasn’t just the crystal ball that was missing.
Even without the crystal ball, it didn’t take long for all the disruptive changes to become apparent.
From a business-related point of view, one of the first problems that emerged was the lack of ingredients. However, many quickly realized that packaging was also an issue. (See here and here.) Let’s be honest: When parts of your supply chain face interference or obstacles, things usually don’t go smoothly unless you’re a fan of the domino effect.
Bill Fullerton, branch manager at Berlin Packaging (Chicago), is well versed in the complexity of the packaging industry and knows firsthand how fragile the thread that connects packaging and finished product can be. Especially when dealing with the rolling effects of a pandemic.
“Nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals require all kinds of packaging components and materials, including glass, rigid and flexible plastic polymers, cotton, desiccants, and metals,” says Fullerton. “This diversity can add complexity when it comes to supply chains.”
Two-and-a-half years after the pandemic roiled life and industries around the world, it’s no wonder packaging companies and their customers haven’t gotten over the turmoil. Fullerton said the disruption remained a concern until mid-2022. Other companies in the industry are waiting for the packaging problem to settle.
Nevertheless, experienced management has found a way to deal with the lingering packaging problem.
Pursuing solutions through flexibility
Haley Dowdall is the Package Engineering Manager at Olly, a brand leader. she said: PCR resins, that is, resins recovered from consumers, have presented particular challenges. “
For a brand known for its idiosyncratic packaging like Olly, this is a nightmare scenario. Francis Lau, PhD, FACN is Olly’s Director of Scientific Affairs. He explains: The square bottle and white cap are essential to every pack we put on the market. “
He adds: [consumers] You’re trying to decipher a confusing message that’s becoming commonplace in today’s nutritional supplement aisle. “
So what should brands do? “We had to be flexible in our supply chain to avoid disruption to our business. We had to plan for increased lead times and costs.”
Flexibility leads to success
Flexibility is certainly something packaging companies understand and value.
Marny Bielefeldt, vice president of marketing for Pretium Packaging in St. Louis, Missouri, shares some concrete examples of how flexibility can lead to success. “For customers who specify resins, especially if the resin is part of an FDA submission, we are actively working to qualify a second resin in case there are problems obtaining the first resin. We work together,” she says.
It’s one strategy product manufacturers should consider, and Bielefeld notes, “It’s also a useful strategy for companies that need used resin with a no-objection letter from the FDA.” doing. She noted that Pretium Packaging has multiple sources for her PCRs, including her FDA no-objection letter, and as such, “we encourage our customers to have multiple approvals for greater flexibility.” I advise.
Bielefeldt points to other propositions for customers who agree with flexibility and are open to partnering with forward-thinking packaging companies. These can make the difference between putting the product on the shelf in a timely manner or leaving the product without packaging and waiting for it to arrive in the desired bottle, container or from a country where it cannot be found. It’s a thing.Ship it.
For example, “We have customers who are having trouble obtaining glass packaging from overseas. I recommend that you consider ,” she says.
“For products that require higher fill temperatures but still need the packaging to be glass-clear, we have hot-fillable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) containers, polypropylene options, and crystalline styrene.” adds Bielefeldt.
From shortage to excess
From Lau’s perspective, “it’s always good to have back-up material options and secondary suppliers of raw materials just in case.”
“One of the most significant challenges for nutritional products has been the lack of heat-induced liners used in closures to provide an airtight seal,” said Fullerton.
And while the shortage situation has “improved significantly,” he advises, he’s not the only one on this roller coaster ride warning of the next wave.
Take a deep breath and wait for it. To stay ahead of future shortages, manufacturers have invested heavily in increasing production capacity, which has resulted in an oversupply of many parts, Fullerton said.
The latest survey data from the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, DC), a supplement industry group, suggests consumer demand for supplements is back to reality. Consumer surveys on dietary supplements have unexpectedly seen a decline in supplement use, returning from last year’s survey high of 80% to pre-pandemic levels of 75%.
It remains to be seen how a glut of stored packaging against declining consumer demand will play out in reality, and who will ultimately bear the financial burden. One is the relationship between the packager and the customer. A good relationship can go a long way in relieving financial pain.
As with so many things in business and life, it’s all about who you know, who you trust, who you choose to take you to the dance.
Fullerton has over 100 years of industry experience, over 6 million square feet of warehouse space (North America and Europe), global access to over 50,000 packaging components, supply chain expertise, and what Berlin calls “Shortage and Disruption”. help to “resolve.”
Drilling down, Fullerton shares that the company “closely monitors resin and raw material costs, ocean freight conditions, global and domestic shipping rates…” and shares market dynamics and supply chain information with customers. We share and work with our customers to find cost-saving solutions.
To facilitate supply agreements that help eliminate shortages and disruptions, Fullerton said:
Another key value of Pretium is sustainability. According to the company’s website, “For over 15 years, Pretium has worked with customers to use more sustainable materials such as post-consumer and bio-resins.”[Pretium has] We have acted as an R&D partner for universities, private companies and inventors looking to develop eco-friendly packaging. “
Since its birth in the 1990s, Pretium has expanded, merged and expanded to further its “capacity in multiple markets with the same goal of effectively serving customers as quickly as possible with quality packaging”. has also focused on acquisitions. His two most recent acquisitions came in his 2021 when Pretium acquired Alpha Packaging (St. Louis) and Grupo Edid (Lerma, Mexico).
For Olly’s Dowdall, when looking for a packing partner, she starts with one of Olly’s core values: transparency. “We strive to foster an environment of open communication with packaging companies and suppliers,” she says. “That way, partners can share candidly when they have supply issues and such, so they can strategize together on a plan of action when issues arise.”
Dowdall adds: Overall, our suppliers have been very proactive through these supply chain disruptions and have been able to proactively secure raw materials and address issues by finding comparable substitutes.”
Heading into 2023 with high hopes
Overall, things look to be looking up for packaging companies and their customers heading into 2023.
“Going into 2023, we do not anticipate a shortage of packaging in the most frequently used virgin materials, such as high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polypropylene and PET,” says Bielefeldt. She adds, “We also have a reliable supply of her used PET with the FDA’s No Objection Letter.” Additionally, top grade post-consumer HDPE is also available, but can be more expensive.
Meanwhile, “Thanks to Berlin Packaging’s strong global presence and thousands of supplier partners around the world,” says Fullerton. We successfully source cost-effective and timely packaging solutions for our dietary supplement customers. “
All of this sounds like good news for end-product manufacturers, marketers, and retailers.
“Compared to 2022, we expect supply issues to normalize somewhat,” says Olly’s Dowdall. But no one could blame her for hedging her bets. You have to maintain your sexuality.”
If someone can draw a line on a crystal ball, now might be a good time.