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New child-resistant packaging designs meet regulatory requirements, and consumer research into child-resistant closures continues.
Child-resistant (CR) packaging may be middle-aged; it dates from the passage of the US Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA) of 1970. Nevertheless, development efforts continue.
In fact, a CR design developed by Ecobliss and marketed by Locked4Kids was recognized as the Best Innovation in Packaging in the Pharma Awards competition at CPhI Worldwide in October 2014 in Paris (1). The reclosable Locked4Kids carton consists of tear-resistant laminated paperboard and features a polyethylene terephthalate blister tray that locks in place (2). Available in various sizes, the pack runs on conventional cartoning machines at standard speeds (1).
Another CR carton for a blister card, the medlock compliance package EZ from Colbert Packaging, disengages a patent-pending locking mechanism when the sides of the carton are pressed and held. When the locking mechanism is released, the caregiver or patient can slide out the blister card to access a dose but cannot completely remove it. Sliding the blister card back in relocks it inside the paperboard carton. In a conversation at Pack Expo International (Nov. 2-5, 2014, in Chicago, IL), Jennifer Gross, manager, marketing and sales support at Colbert Packaging, reports the patent-pending design has achieved F=1 CR status (i.e., the strictest rating) in tests. Colbert is working with several firms, including a major pharmaceutical company and two contract packagers, to commercialize the design.
CPhI Worldwide also showcased CR designs from MeadWestvaco (MWV), which plans to launch its HiMark CR Nasal Sprayer early in 2015 (3). The new CR nasal sprayer was developed to meet US Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations, taking effect in December 2014, which require CR packaging for products containing imidazolines (4). SecureCap closures from Comar also meet CR standards for products containing imidazolines (5).
At Pack Expo International, Presto launched Child-Guard slider technology, which the company says is the first child-resistant slider available for pouch packaging that meets Title 16 CFR 1700 of PPPA with ASTM D3475 classification (6). The slider is challenging for children under five years old, but simple for adult consumers, including seniors, noted the company. The technology allows brand owners to choose a flexible-packaging format as a lighter-weight alternative to rigid packaging and still meet child-resistant mandates.
Meanwhile, research continues on consumer preferences for CR packaging. A focus group study by TricorBraun Design & Innovation evaluated seven CR closures early in April 2014 (7). Participants considered how each felt in the hand and assessed functionality and visual appearance. After group discussion, each individual evaluated the closure according to six characteristics:
• I like the way this closure feels in my palm
• It is obvious how to open and close this package
• I like the way it feels when I open this package
• I like the way it feels when I close this package
• I am worried that my child will accidentally be able to open this package
• I like the way this closure looks (visual design).
At the end of each session, participants associated specific descriptive words such as modern, outdated, user-friendly, frustrating, innovative, or clunky, for example, with four of the closures.
A common reaction coupled the comfort level of the closure in the hand with the relative ease and comfort of opening it. A closure with a soft-texture surface, for example, produced comments such as, “I like the way that feels; I get a better grip with that rubber top.” Closures molded with ribs around the edge for gripping elicited comments including, “It hurts my hand to turn that; the ribs aren’t high enough; I can’t get a firm grip.”
Participants were particularly concerned about how clearly each closure indicated that it was securely closed and contents were safe from children. Closures signaling “closed” with a clearly audible click rated higher.
Bi-color closures where instructions and branding contrasted with the background color also rated higher, and graphic opening instructions won over text. Several participants noted, “I prefer pictures over words.”
Becky Donner, TricorBraun vice president of Design and Market Insight, noted in a press release, “The primary value of this consumer research initiative is that it gives us very clear insight into consumer preferences, emotional reactions, and consumer behavior with packaging. That provides invaluable information for our design team.”
Focus groups are conducted year round at TricorBraun’s Design and Innovation Center in Oak Brook, IL, in partnership with NSM Research, a market research group that has assessed consumer preferences for packaging since 1996. TricorBraun Design & Innovation Group is a business unit of TricorBraun, a St. Louis-based supplier of bottles, jars, and other rigid packaging components.
—Hallie Forcinio is Pharmaceutical Technology's packaging editor, email@example.com.