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How to Make the Most of Your OTC Product Packaging

An effective OTC packaging partner will offer you anti-counterfeiting elements, sustainable solutions, extended gamut printing, and other flexible printing options with globally recognized quality control standards.

    7 minute read

Pharmaceutical brands face unique challenges when it comes to packaging.

Stringent regulations create exacting standards for consumer safety. Extensive information must be included on OTC packaging without compromising the visual appeal of your products on the shelf.

OTC packaging isn’t only a means of protecting products, but remains a vital marketing opportunity. 

As you envision packaging design for your OTC products, here are several design tips to keep in mind. 

Design Tips for OTC Product Packaging

Naturally, consumer safety ranks among the highest factors you consider when designing OTC product packaging. Just a few packaging mistakes can poison your pharmaceutical brand. 

As you look to implement effective OTC packaging, you want to collaborate with a packaging partner that offers you anti-counterfeiting elements, sustainable solutions, extended gamut printing, and other flexible printing options with globally recognized quality control standards. 

Employ Anti-Counterfeiting Design Features

Criminals have become increasingly sophisticated in our world of e-commerce and single-day shipping. Nefarious actors are putting consumers at risk by tampering with OTC products and placing them in illegitimate packaging. 

This undermines pharmaceutical brands, because buyers unknowingly end up with OTC products that are either ineffectual or dangerous to consume.

While packaging partners have no way to prevent malevolent persons from modifying your OTC products, they can integrate anti-counterfeiting elements into your packaging. These design features help retailers determine whether an OTC product’s secondary packaging has been meddled with or not.  

Anti-counterfeiting technology makes it challenging for criminals to reproduce your packaging, while empowering retailers with simple ways of determining authenticity.

Overt authentication techniques range from easy-to-spot pearlescent inks, color-shifting inks, holographic seals and labels, tamper-evident closures and labels, and specialized 2D and QR codes.

Alternatively, covert authentication techniques rely on technological devices to discern legitimacy. This includes Digimarc barcodes, digital watermarking, hidden indicia, thermochromic inks, UV- and infrared-reactive inks, and taggants. 

Implement Sustainable Packaging

Consumers are increasingly concerned with how environmentally friendly both products and their packagings are. They want purchases to reflect their deeply held values such as sustainability and environmental stewardship.

That goes for OTC products, as well.

Consumers know the difference between real sustainability efforts and the more performative “greenwashing” committed by less ethical brands. Several factors go into proper sustainable packaging design.

Environmentally conscious pharmaceutical brands are shifting toward what is known as the “circular economy,” a model focused on eliminating waste. Reduce, reuse, and recycle are core to this ethos. 

As far as OTC packaging goes, that means minimizing single-use plastics, repurposing old materials, and integrating post-consumer recycled paperboard into your secondary layer

Not all paper-based materials are created equal.

Choose a packaging partner whose paperboard is sourced from responsibly managed forests. Look for certifications from nonprofit organizations such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

Other renewable packaging materials are available to you, as well, such as cotton- and hemp-based substrates and casein (made from milk proteins). 

Plastics still have a role to play, and can have a comparable carbon footprint, but use them judiciously.

Furthermore, OTC packaging should adopt right-size packaging principles, relying on just enough material needed to effectively safeguard products while they’re transported, stored, and distributed to consumers. Heavier or bulkier packaging not only costs more to ship, but increases greenhouse gas emissions. 

Teaming up with a domestic OTC packaging partner will further reduce your carbon footprint and environmental impacts by localizing your supply chain.

Consider Various Printing Options

Pharmaceutical brands have a few printing methods they can fold into their OTC packaging designs. Select the one that best suits your situation, and know that working with an established packaging partner means you won’t be boxed into a single approach.

Traditional Printing

Also known as “offset,” traditional printing involves applying design elements directly to OTC packaging using metal plates with etched images inked and then pressed onto the substrate using a rubber roller. 

Offset printing can be lithographic, which relies on fixed plates and eight colors to apply the image, or flexographic, employing flexible plates capable of adhering images to uneven or curved surfaces. 

Digital Printing

Dramatically reducing up-front costs, this newer form of printing relies on digital files rather than metal plates to apply visual designs. Images are printed directly onto your substrate of choice. 

While traditional printing is well suited for OTC packaging demanding more sophisticated imagery, digital has the advantage of faster turnaround times, lower costs for low- and medium-volume print runs, and customization through variable data printing.

Extended Gamut Printing

If you want to print with spot colors—custom inks that match digital files—extended gamut printing is the way to go.

It uses digital technology to pre-mix and print inks directly onto your substrate or commercial labels. Capable of reproducing more than 1,800 spot inks with high- quality precision, extended gamut printing also enables you to print different products at the same time.

Pharmaceutical brands love extended gamut printing because it grants more control over the colors, while also saving time and money. Your printer does not have to mix the inks and adjust the color for each run. Plus, it can reduce the amount of printed waste, if done properly.

You get the packaging you want with the colors you want, without paying more or waiting longer. That’s a win-win situation for the printer, and your customers.

Extended gamut printing is particularly helpful for private labels and white labels. These are pharma products made by one manufacturer but sold by different retailers under their own brands. They often copy the packaging designs and colors of national brands to better compete with them.

Put simply, extended gamut printing helps your pharmaceutical brand match the colors with exactness, making print runs faster and less expensive.

Maintain Internationally Recognized Quality Control Standards

Your OTC products need to meet the most rigorous safety standards. Not holding your OTC packaging to similarly high standards undermines those efforts. That includes quality control, environmental responsibility, and color consistency. 

Be certain your packaging supplier has certifications from Pantone Certified Printer Program, GMI-Prime, G7 Master, and ISO Quality System Certification.

Take Advantage of Savvy Decorative Effects

In addition to protecting your products, OTC packaging must also grab attention in retail aisles. Paperboard folding cartons remain one of the most common forms of secondary packaging used by pharma brands today. 

It comes in a variety of types including solid bleached sulfate, coated unbleached kraft, coated natural kraft, solid unbleached sulfate, coated recycled board, clay coated news back, uncoated recycled board, and thermal mechanical pulp. 

To get the most out of your OTC packaging, there are several decorative effects worth considering.

By raising or indenting the surface, embossing enables you to adjoin texture and engaging angles to your folding carton design. This can highlight logos, product names, or other vital information.

Manufacture a resplendent look with foil stamping. Applying a fine layer of metallic foil accentuates branding features.

You can further embellish your folding carton with a soft touch coating that leaves the packaging additionally smooth. It also reinforces its defense against abrasions.

If you want to design contrast with matte backgrounds, spot UV coating adheres shiny varnish to discrete parts of folding cartons

Similar to foil stamping, metallic inks provide folding cartons with a luxurious shine. Its striking nature easily captures consumer attention. 

Ubiquitous among pharmaceutical brands, blister carding protects your OTC product while creating a straightforward way for consumption–without compromising the packaging’s integrity. 

Working With an Experienced OTC Packaging Partner

When collaborating with an experienced OTC packaging supplier, you can expect a streamlined design process with peace-of-mind quality. They won’t cut corners when it comes to consumer safety standards, counterfeiting concerns, or your commitment to sustainability.

With more than 250 years of combined printing and packaging experience, Oliver is a leader in the OTC packaging industry and works with some of the largest national brands. 

Whether commercial labels, folding cartons, or marketing collateral, Oliver delivers a seamless OTC packaging process and offers customers a one-stop solution. Plus, as a domestic packaging partner, Oliver enables you to easily monitor the production process and shrink your carbon footprint, given the shortened supply chain.

After all, sustainability is in Oliver’s nature. 

Oliver brings extensive experience to printing pharmaceutical labels and OTC packaging with a focus on sustainability. Contact us today to learn which solutions are best for your brand. 

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