Off The Shelf Health

Bonnie Howard November 25, 2014


There’s a quiet revolution going on in the health of our nation. Healthcare is big business and this has led to the increased choice of healthcare products available to buy from retailers over the past few years; a number of factors have contributed to this growth.

Time, as we all know, is in very short supply today. When it comes to health, therefore, consumers need a fast and effective solution to whatever malady they may be suffering from and which – just as importantly – promises to keep them on top form; and they need it now. With the media full of stories of long waiting times to get a doctor’s appointment, increasing numbers of customers are relying on the input from their local pharmacist either in conjunction with or instead of their doctor, to help cure their ailments.

Pharmaceutical supplies with a lot of bottle 

Pharmaceutical supplies with a lot of bottle

Indeed, with 90% of people suffering from a form of self-treatable symptom every couple of weeks, it is no wonder that our retailers, local pharmacies, health shops and major supermarkets have a plethora of products to treat the most common complaints as well as those that may seem more obscure.


Many formulations and products are now available in Over the Counter (OTC) and retail-shelf strengths and doses, and the rise in these products over the last 20 years has been meteoric with more and more items that were previously prescription-only now available from the local supermarket.

Plastic fantastic:  M&H’s Spray Pump  and Dispenser range

Plastic fantastic:
M&H’s Spray Pump
and Dispenser range

Greater knowledge and interest in health-related issues, the growth in information provided by the media, the internet and through various sporting and lifestyle activities, has led to a far more knowledgeable customer. Increased understanding of which products support various healthcare outcomes and a growing interest in natural remedies and varying treatments used in different cultures around the world have fuelled demand for a wide variety of healthcare products.

All of these factors have led to huge opportunities for manufacturers of remedies and wellbeing products. And, not surprisingly, this has in turn generated a marked increase in competition to demonstrate their competence, value and efficacy, and attract consumers. As a result the appropriate use of well-designed, eye-catching and informative packaging can play a crucial role in the success of any healthcare product.


Regulations require that prescribed medicine packaging is simply presented with no fanfare and with safety paramount. The medicine must be correctly labelled to be taken only by the person whose name and date of birth is on the label, and patients must receive clear and explicit instructions as to the correct dosage. Retail healthcare packaging, on the other hand, has to work a lot harder – there is still the requirement to show optimal dosage and user information but, in addition, a pack has to create impact and attract attention on-shelf, as well as effectively communicate the benefits of the product and have the suitable ‘authority’ that assures users it can deliver on its promises.

Nor can the practical details be overlooked; a pack has to be convenient and easy-to-use for the consumer. For healthcare products, tamper-evidence and child-resistance may be especially important, but so too is ensuring easy access for everyone, in particular those who may be infirm or debilitated.

A sight for sore… anything really

A sight for sore… anything really

The type of product to be packed may bring its own challenges; liquid or solid doses, syrups, creams and emollients, powders and granulates – all have different characteristics and require different packaging solutions. Commercial pressures play their part as well with packaging manufacturers needing to be able to respond quickly to market changes and new product introductions.

A wide choice of decoration options can personalise packs and establish individual brand identities. Different pack sizes – or pack formats with a similar design covering, for example, bottles, tubes and jars – help to create family ranges.


Achieving this correct balance of authority, attractiveness and efficacy within a package is an art. To be able to produce this in a cost effective and timely manner is a skill. It is not surprising therefore that some of the most successful companies are those who specialise in this sector.

In the healthcare market, the efficacy of any product will be vital to its success. But in an increasingly competitive and crowded sector, convincing the consumer of the effectiveness of a particular product, and reminding them of this and encouraging their continued loyalty in the
face of a wealth of other products, will be largely down to the packaging.