COSSMA: Monodose Packaging

Monodose packaging is subtly influencing the future of the personal care industry in a time of growing environmental consciousness, hygienic concerns, and a consumer-driven need for products that are convenient to carry.

This format caters to consumers who are seeking portability, precision, and hygiene, particularly for travel, gym visits, and trying new products without the need to invest in full-sized products. To fulfill this demand, there is a clear shift from bulky containers to products packaged in sachets, pods, ampoules, and capsules. This kind of packaging encourages consumers to explore new products and break away from their regular routines without needing to invest in larger quantities upfront.

This kind of packaging (sachet-based) has gained momentum and acceptance in countries like India and the Philippines, where affordability is a major factor in the personal care space. When it comes to developed economies, consumer acceptance is for products that are available in the form of pods, capsules, and slips. Consumers in the US or Europe are always on the lookout for customised products catered to their specific needs, making this concept a credible option for delivering personalised trial products.

Formulation Technologies

Formulating these small packaging solutions carries a high risk of contamination because of the increased contact between the concentrated product and packaging. Thus, offering stability is one major concern when it comes to formulating monodose packaging. Companies are investing in selecting compatible materials like polyvinyl alcohol, or PVOH, because it offers excellent barrier properties against the external environment and prevents interactions between the product and the packaging.

Environmental campaign research1 found that the plastic packaging waste produced annually by the beauty industry is over 120 billion units. About 7.9 billion rigid plastic units are made in the US, especially for cosmetics and personal care products, and 552 million plastic shampoo bottles are sold there each year. Most of this packaging cannot be recycled because it is composed of plastics that are either multi-layer or multi-component and thus do not have a recycling pathway.

A growing focus on sustainability has pushed companies to find alternatives to traditional plastic packaging for their monodose products. A Florida-based business2 created novel waste-free technologies in which packaging dissolves with water and disappears completely. A few more companies3, 4 are targeting reducing waste generation by encapsulating the product in water-soluble films.

While the individual pods or capsules might be biodegradable or water-soluble, the right material used for secondary packaging still presents some challenges. To address these issues and improve the sustainability of their products, businesses2, 4 are looking more and more into recyclable options for secondary packaging, such as plant-plastics made from sugarcane. As per a leading sustainable sourcing company11, the utilisation of one metric ton of bagasse (remains after crushing sugarcane) results in a reduction of approximately 1.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Driving sustainability

Sustainability stands as a key concern across all nodes of the beauty industry, and in recent years, sustainable packaging concerns have been quite openly discussed and worked upon. To address the idea, certain brands5 have begun utilising recyclable materials, including paper, bioplastic, monomaterial, post-consumer recycled material, etc., although achieving complete recyclability, considering every aspect from packaging to bottles, brand stickers, caps, and pumps, can pose challenges. But when it comes to monodose packaging, this is achievable because monodose packaging is constructed from a single material and for single use purposes, streamlining the recycling process of the obtained waste.

Apart from packaging, product waste is another major concern that the personal care industry faces. Research6 suggests that a significant portion of beauty products go unused and are discarded, with estimates ranging from 20% to 40%, depending on the specific product category. Monodose packaging offers products in small quantities, allowing consumers to use only a portion of the product that they actually need. This helps minimize product waste and reduce carbon footprint throughout the product cycle. However, concerns about waste generation still persist if the monodose packaging is not fully water-soluble, which appears to contribute to the accumulation of plastic waste. Brands from the USA7 and France3 are tackling this challenge by opting for easily recyclable materials such as paper, compostable bioplastics, and water-soluble films.

Additionally, some brands are pioneering fully degradable packaging solutions that leave no residual waste. One US personal care brand, for example, (4) introduced a body wash cleanser slip that dissolves completely in water and comes in a sachet form.

Currently in its nascent stage, when fully degradable monodose packaging gains traction, a future can be expected where the beauty industry embraces circularity, transforming from waste generation to resource recovery. However, using this technology for bigger bottles is out of the question for now. But the prospect of sustainability will be visibly greater in bigger bottles as well, through prioritizing recyclable materials and designing packages that facilitate recycling processes, offering refillable packaging, and replacing conventional plastics with biodegradable alternatives. For instance, a company2 has introduced a hydrofill concept, where the product looks similar to a monodose product but can be used to produce multidose bottles by dissolving the hydrofill in a bottle filled with water.

Significant Collaborations & Investments

The single-dose revolution in personal care is fueled by powerful collaborations and investments. Industry giants 4, 8 joined forces with packaging innovators to develop sustainable monodose solutions. The manufacturing of biodegradable films, reusable paper-based packaging, and water-soluble sachets is a multimillion dollar industry. In order to extend their reach beyond individual customers, players are strategically working together with hotels or hotel distributors9 to gain access to a sizable and well-established network. Advances in research and development propel additional partnerships with various beauty brands10 providing a competitive advantage for personalised formulas.

Regulatory Aspects

Reducing plastic pollution, especially from single-use plastics, is one of humanity’s biggest problems. Just 9% of the plastic that has ever been made has been recycled; the remainder is released into the environment annually. Oceans are thought to be contaminated by over 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic waste, of which 269,000 tons float and most of which are below the surface. Lately, the hospitality and consumer packaged goods (CPG) industries have experienced substantial transformations due to new laws enacted by governments worldwide with the goal of decreasing plastic pollution. Monodose packaging companies aim to eliminate the green tax, which is imposed on products or activities deemed to be harmful to the environment. This will eventually lead to customers paying less for the product, leveling the price parity and marketplace to some extent. While laws such as the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive, which prohibits single-use plastic products, and Regulation (EC) No. 1907/2006 (REACH), which guarantees the safe use of chemicals, do not specifically address monodose packaging, they do establish a precedent for future legislation that will be more stringent.

Challenges and Solutions

While the future of monodose packaging sounds promising, it sure has a lot of challenges. The expenses aren’t limited to packaging; creating monodose formulations demands a distinct and meticulous production and quality control process. There is a need for further innovations in production and design, including lightweight materials, high-speed filling lines, and concentrated formulas.

Another challenge for monodose packaging lies in its compatibility with various personal care formulations. Certain formulations can react with the packaging material, leading to leaching, discoloration, or product integrity issues. This necessitates formulating with additives, including emulsifiers and stabilisers, which might not be feasible or desirable for all products, especially natural or organic. Formulating specifically for monodose formats, using compatible ingredients and stabilisers, is a major requirement for the industry. Additionally, consumer perceptions regarding single-use products need to be addressed through transparent communication, like eco-friendly materials and responsible disposal. Collaborations with waste management companies can ensure proper end-of-life management for used monodose packaging.

Conclusion

The affordability, convenience, and portability of single-dose formats have increasingly appealed to consumers in the beauty retail sector, across a range of products such as face creams, moisturisers, makeup products, and shampoos. While challenges exist, industry collaboration, technological advancements, and a focus on sustainability will pave the way for a future where single-use translates to smart and responsible consumption.

References:

1 Zero Waste Week
2 Nohbo
3 Soltec
4 Plus Products Inc
5 Everist, Flamingo Estate, and Paradoxx
6 Vogue Business
7 Monosol
8 Redivivus SRL
9 Roomza Properties and Bunzell
10 EVOLVh, MalinandGoetz, and Izzy Zero Waste Beauty
11 EcoSource

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This article was originally published in the April issue of COSSMA, written by Shivani Bisht.

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