In 2012 and 2013, one product was responsible for sending one child per day to the hospital shortly after it emerged on the market.
During that time, poison control centers received more than 17,000 calls, roughly one call per hour, about children ingesting a dangerous household product. The result of which caused a major brand to overhaul not only the product in question, but also the packaging to ensure children are safeguarded against consuming the inedible, hazardous item.
The product in question is a laundry pod, initially touted as a quick and efficient way for adult consumers to complete a load of laundry with ease. These innovative, single-use packets were popularized by Tide but ubsequently put the major laundry products brand in hot water. Tide Pods have been used in more than 26 million homes since their debut, and although the product became an instant sensation with adults, their appearance and size also made them appealing to young kids who mistook them for candy, resulting in the aforementioned hospital trips and calls to poison control centers. Procter & Gamble, Tide’s parent company, acted quickly to overhaul the product, adding a bitter-tasting outside coating to the pods themselves, and changed the packaging multiple times to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future.
This year, Procter & Gamble finally discovered the best solution to keep children protected from consuming the toxic Tide Pods: flexible child resistant bags with a specialized zip-lock mechanism were tested, and P&G discovered 90 percent of young children were unable to open this new packaging — even after being shown how to do it. Switching away from see-through, rigid plastic containers and embracing opaque, printed, lightweight child resistant packaging has proven to be a success, maintaining the hit status of the Tide Pods while offering numerous advantages to adult consumers and their families.
What can other CPG brands learn from this?
The key takeaway is evaluating your product packaging in the initial stages of product development. When taking a look at Tide’s first packaging design, it’s clear the laundry products brand placed careful attention on the aesthetic value of the canister, mimicking the round, orb-like shape of the pods while boosting transparency so shoppers can see exactly what the pods look like before opening the container. Unfortunately, this concept backfired, as the all-clear packaging grabbed the attention small children and looked a bit too much like a candy jar and not enough like a hazardous household cleaning product.
Many companies, especially those much smaller than mega corporations like Procter & Gamble, simply cannot afford to continuously overhaul their products, packaging, and labels to see what works and what doesn’t. Just like you wouldn’t purchase auto insurance after a car accident has occurred, you shouldn’t wait until a recall or serious incident happens with your product to consider choosing packaging that will protect both the goods inside as well as the consumer. Rigorous testing, feedback, and a trusted relationship with your packaging supplier can prevent not only sick consumers, but also a diminished brand reputation among once loyal customers. Pulling products from shelves can hurt relationships with retailers and investors as well, which is why considering highly functional, protective flexible childproof packaging at the early stages of product development is essential.
Tide is setting new standards for a wide range of industries — from pharmaceutical to automotive products, household cleaners, pesticides, beauty items, and even small tools and parts that can present a choking hazard — sustainable, convenient child resistant packaging is a must. We’re even seeing a huge surge in flexible child resistant packaging in the medical marijuana industry, as regulations are strict and ever changing regarding the functionality and labeling requirements on packaging in an effort to keep young children safe. With Tide embracing flexible pouches with a special child-proof zipper, they are filling a significant need in their specific market and are communicating their commitment to listening to customer feedback and pivoting on a dime to protect both their product and consumers.
Consider the fact that millennials are one of the largest, most influential consumer bases with tremendous purchasing power. Many millennials are starting families, so product packaging must be conducive to their active, mobile lifestyles while keeping their little ones safe. Millennial parents, especially, are acutely aware of recalls and safety hazards affecting their small children due to real-time updates on social media and the rapid spread of information via various digital media. Rest assured, the Tide Pod hazards and incidents did not get swept under the rug — medical professionals publicly came forward to offer warnings to parents about the dangers of this product, even urging them to use regular liquid laundry detergent until Procter & Gamble did something to safeguard kids from ingesting the candy-colored laundry pods.
Tide made the smart move to utilize a revolutionary new form of child resistant packaging, weighing its benefits like sustainability, ease of transport, and convenience of opening and reclosing among adult consumers. The brand released this new packaging in conjuction with a fresh ad campaign emphasizing that household includes can happen in a split second. Consumer education is key to ensuring this packaging is protecting both the product and yound children, which Tide made a point to emphasize in its new commercials and on the faces of its custom printed, childproof stand up pouches.
While it’s true that older consumers or people with disabilities are often frustrated with traditional hard-to-open childproof packaging, flexible pouches with a zip lock are scientifically developed to be much easier for adults to open but difficult for children to understand and get into. Pouches are significantly more sustainable and produce less waste, and they’re easier for parents to grab and load into their carts and vehicles at the grocery store. The unique formulation of their laminated layers make the packaging lightweight but resistant to puncture or breakage — further keeping kids safe. If it’s dropped, it won’t shatter. Children can’t tear into it, so they can’t get their hands on the harmful product. The lightweight nature of flexible child resistant packaging makes it easy to store and grab from a high place away from children, and the re-closable ziplock keeps the structure and functionality of the product sealed in, adding value to the consumer.
It’s not enough to come up with an innovative product to make your brand stand out from the crowd. Embracing modern, highly effective packaging solutions early in the process has become more important than ever. Large brands, like Tide, are raising the bar and setting new standards for a wide range of businesses in the CPG space by emphasizing safety, convenience, and new solutions — in addition to launching a unique and highly sought-after product. While it can seem risky, time consuming, or costly to try out a new form of packaging, the payoff of selecting the safest and most effective container will greatly overshadow the initial hesitations in the long run.