Of course since the beginning of this year the prospects are not as good but according to the latest estimations, and depending on markets, sales will remain slack in 2009 or in the worse case will drop to - 10 %.
Behind these figures half a dozen European companies manage to pull out from the pack with two unchallenged leaders, the Tupack group (1 billion alone!) and the Alcan group with more than a billion! Following, a small pack of companies including the Spanish Tuboplast that also owns CTL and Tapser (300 to 400 million), the French Soupletube (200 million), the German Linhardt (also 200 million), the Swiss Neopac…
An industrial universe that has changed quite a lot during the last fifteen years with the arrival of some newcomers from Asia, Eastern countries, and even India. What about the ambitions of a company like Essel Propack that claims holding the third of the world market of the laminate tube, the headquarters of the company, located in India, weigh all sectors of businesses included, a respectable USD 2,4 billion turnover?
But it has become a cruel universe where positions are earned at a high price (the cost of a production line is close to EUR 3 to 6 million) and where profitability depends more and more on the industrial strike force put in the balance. When in the end you consider a tub (plastic) is sold in Euros, around 25 cents or even 6 cents (laminate). A sector where the smallest mistake can cost you a lot. The Betts group (3 billion laminate tubes, USD 200 million in turnover) in financial turmoil presently knows something about it.
A tube that is no longer just a «tube»!
Extruded plastic tube, laminate tube? Clearly the cosmetic industry uses more generally the first one than the second one. “But things are changing”, confess professionals involved. “The volumes are to be considered”. Favourite and historical market of the laminate tube: the toothpaste.
As for the plastic tube, in a mono-material or coextruded version, it has always remained very attractive to the cosmetic industry. Especially when designers compete with one another with great cleverness in three fields: tube printing, development of new functionalities with mainly the use of new applicators, and the design of new shapes!
Among the champions in these fields, Alcan Packaging Beauty, world leader in the cosmetic packaging industry that owns for the tube activity, not less than 15 manufacturing units (plastic tube and laminate tube) spread out in about ten countries.
“Thanks to its quality of print”, explains François Tassart, Alcan Packaging Beauty’s Vice-President Sales & Marketing Director for the Tube Worldwide activity, “packaging conveniences, protective properties and product delivery rate, the tube is extremely popular with the general public and retains a real potential in terms of development. Every year we reinvest continually in new machines and news production capacities. Emulation within the teams is constant to find the proper tube, the proper applicator, the proper capping system.”
In close cooperation with customers, Alcan also strives into developing more and more environment-friendly tubes. “Their work has led our teams to design lightweight caps, do away with tamper-proof films and labels, replace thermal varnishes with UV varnishes, reduce sleeve thickness and use recycled plastics”.
According to Michel Cochet, Codipack, representative of the Italian manufacturer Agatech (annual Production of 25 Millions parts, Turnover +/- EUR 3 millions), “Agatech has a production line, but to meet increasing demand, plans to open a second one before the end of the year”.
He believes “the tube holds a paramount position in every segment. It will suit any kind of finishes and finishing technology, and now offers a wide range of capping that has made it unavoidable, whatever the market.”
In times of constant research for minimum costs, the cost of a tube to conditioning remains fairly low compared to other types of packaging.
Versatility of this type of packaging is a major element: plurality of use, ranges in capacities, formulas it can contain, brings confirmation that this leading product is also unavoidable. Its smoothness and easiness to use allow optimal product restitution and it is also very handy to carry around, everywhere you go.
“Agatech recently widened its product offer, with a new range that was displayed at the last Cosmoprof in Bologna. It concerns tubes metalized using the FLEX technology: a technology and a know-how for a product targeting high-end markets and luxury products.”
The push comes from Airless tubes
Enthusiasm is the same at Tuboplast/CTL... “The tube as always been in an evolution process these last ten years,” explains Eric Derouin, Tuboplast CTL Group’s Sales & Marketing Director, “in terms of variety of finishes, production speed and new functionalities. With regard to the Airless tube that we launched end of 2006 and that allows a new gesture to the end user as well as optimal protection of formulas, associated with the simplicity of a low cost easy filling process of the tubes.”
“We are clearly the first and only leader on this segment with a wide offer ranging from 5 ml to 250 ml, plastic (coex / mono) and laminate with all types of pumps from the plastic ones for mass market to the more sophisticated metal ones. It’s a fast growing market. The tube is a base completely Airless with the frame of the tube, coex or airtight laminate + the Airless pump, unlike the systems with pistons where the frame of the bottle in PP, presents some porosity. The Airless system is also the less expensive in terms of product but also in terms of filling, thereby, we support a full democratisation of Airless systems and the possibilities it offers.”
Not to mention the general aspect of the tube, it is clearly what is spoken of as “commodities” in English language. It is convenient, flexible (in terms of consumer gesture but also in terms of market launch, fast, easy to fill) cost effective (inexpensive and with high filling-up rates). With an ordinary aspect in shape, it allows infinite decorative possibilities, offset, serigraphy, hot printing ...that offers customisation without framing the brand in a shape.
Segmentation according to the channel springs from this variety of finishes but the tube himself is a universal packaging, for all type of channels. It is also the perfect partner for promotional, coffrets, in“+product”, in sleeve, pocket size....
Eventually, it is a youthful gesture, clean, fast e and easy to carry if necessary. It is the reflection of our society and of our consumer behaviours. This product, finally, is never outdated, because it does not restrain the brand in a shape code, allowing it to modernise itself, with the evolutions of finishes. It is simple to use and can be sophisticated at leisure through finishing. Consumers do not need to be trained, they are seduced and provoked by appetency not by the use of it.
In this era of globalisation of brands it is a unique and universal packaging in terms of positioning with the freedom for each country to customise, finish and language: now, how can you beat that??
According to Cornelia Schmid, Marketing Communication at Neopac, the tube will never go out of fashion because: “It is convenient, easy to use, inexpensive, unbreakable, attractive thanks to its finish, less expensive that the other types of eco friendly packaging”.
Capacity for innovation is a standard at Neopac. The firm has developed tubes with Airless pumps for liquids and creams, the “Dropper-Tubes” for nutricosmetics (drop by drop system), The Pinpoint Tube with its silicone applicator for smooth and precise applications, single use tubes for dermo-cosmetic applications...
“We focus, explains Cornelia Schmid, on four main markets in cosmetics: Luxury, with our special finishes; Natural, our tubes offer a high barrier for products with no preservatives; Wellbeing, our tubes offer specific and pleasant contact sensation, Cosmeceuticals, our monodose tubes for facials with very high barrier proprieties to protect special products from oxygen contact”.
For Hans Eckhardt Cosmetics’ Sales & Marketing Manager, Linhardt, (a production site for plastic tubes and two production sites for aluminium tubes and a joint-venture in Egypt, in Cairo, for the production of aluminium tubes), “when you look at it, on all markets, the tube is self- advantageous: the luxury segment, for instance, can take advantage of a tube with serigraphic direct printing, the addition of a pump bringing even more value to it. Mass market segment will profit from a very competitive price, and great flexibility in sizes. It is obviously a major advantage with our customers asking us to be very responsive in the present economical context. The labelled tube is a good compromise between high quality printing and an excellent quality/price ratio for products sold in different countries and therefore different languages. The coextruded or laminate tube is a perfect barrier for sensitive products”.
On this point, the German company offers currently a new tube, the multiflex tube (an improved laminate tube with a juxtaposed welding instead of a overlaid one which allows combination of different complexes and printing at 360°).
“One must admit, says Hans Eckhardt, that the tube never goes out of fashion precisely because of its versatility of use in all fields linked to cosmetics (skincare, haircare, suncare, men, etc...). And in our time where everyone feels concerned by environmental issues, the lightweight of a tube (approx. 15gr. for 150ml) combined with an excellent bleeding rate is a genuine environmental ‘plus’”.
And the injected tube?
It is undoubtedly a segment in which some industrial actors have decided to play a part.
According to Bruno Douvillier, BDPack, and representative in France of the Swedish producer, Tectubes (EUR 30 million in turnover, 240 millions plastic tubes including 190 injected and the remainder extruded and a 105 millions in aluminium), “if the tube is not out fashioned it is mainly for the following reasons: simple to use for the end user, simple to fill for the manufacturer, good product protection with an excellent Quality/Price ratio”.
Latest innovation to have been launch onto the market by Tectubes: an injected decorated tube using the IML process (In Mould Labelling) “which offers quality and an exceptional rendering of finishes, explains Bruno Duvillier, which allows us to be very competitive when dealing with small series”.