The distinction is clear, the child proof element is usually based on safety, we can’t have the little dears getting into any of the numerous cleaning fluid containers or perhaps turpentine bottles can we? Still, it’s not a good idea to have the littlies, or anybody else for that matter, getting in to other products to either consume the contents or impregnate them with some evil chemical.
With this in mind I recently set about an inspection of tamper evident packaging at my local supermarket and hardware store. It’s true the aged and infirmed (I include myself in there somewhere) have a terrible time trying to open pharmaceutical packaging but if they were easy to open then they would be "easy to open" if you follow my drift.
Clearly there is a conflict in that the safety issues involved with child proof openings, can be argued as more important than the inconvenience to those in the community who, for one reason or another, just can’t open some packaging. This is a never-ending debate and one which this grumpy old carton designer is happy to leave to my industry peers.
So turning back to the simple question of why can’t I open this packaging? I found it easy to come across a few culprits to test my patience.
The first was the common 1.5 litre PET drinks container. My manhood has been tested on numerous occasions with my "just" managing to open the bottle for my wife in the nick of time before the mandatory "told you it was tight" comment. Of course if those screw caps weren’t tightened all the way then one can imagine the endless number of de-carbonated drinks cluttering up our fridges that Â‘canÂ’tÂ’ be consumed by thirsty children. Not to mention the three-quarter full bottles on the supermarket shelves’. good job they’re child proof, whoops I mean tamper evident.
Though not wishing to single out any particular kinds of packaging, there are some which just Â‘stand outÂ’ from the others. Blister packs are probably the biggest examples of these, (I can almost hear the nods of agreement). The ability for the purchaser to view the complete product sometimes seems to override every other facet of good packaging. What’s wrong with a good old-fashioned illustration or photo of the product printed onto an old-fashioned cardboard box?
For example, is it really necessary to view the underside of a product like a door handle when choosing to purchase, then having to viciously attack the sealed blister pack with a knife to open it when one gets it home? Is it "what the consumer wants" or is it really just about product placement at point of sale?
Clearly there are places for all the ingenious tamper evident packaging designs that have been devised over the centuries. Try telling an ancient Egyptian that anybody could get in to his tamper proof tomb.
I think the problem is we seem to lack variations of these designs to cater for different market needs, the young, the frail and the old. Perhaps the packaging selection process embarked on by product manufacturers should be more influenced by the many and varied options available to them. As well as product visibility, how about product protection, ease of handling, information and communication, shelf placement, competitors packaging, and of course not to mention’ cost.
The cardboard carton industry is of course not immune from making life a little more frustrating to the consumer than need be with sometimes ineffective packaging. I hate to think how many times I’ve pulled the tear strip opening on the top of a carton to watch it veer off line and quickly separate the cardboard from the printed paper’ out with that knife again.
A classic mistake repeated over and over again is when a change in cardboard stock is made. This usually happens because of availability or cost and little or no testing as to the tearability of the board is undertaken until the job is on the press. This also means the carton hasn’t been tested at the point of product filling or through transport conditions’ hardly surprising that by the time it gets to the consumer it frequently fails.
The tamper evident sealing of outer flaps on cartons by sometimes excessive amounts of adhesive can cause many problems in opening. If the perforations or tear strips or other so-called easy-opening features fail then the already disgruntled public, quite rightly, blame the packaging manufacturers, but they don’t forget, and the next time they come to purchase that product they may well choose a different brand.
A classic old-fashioned tamper evident feature for cartons that does seem to work is the humble label. A simple alternative, a label can usually be applied to the carton after closure. This can still hold the pack firmly closed and yet it is obviously broken if tampered with, best of all itÂ’s easy to open.
Personally I have a pet hate for some tamper evident closures mainly because they are not in fact tamper evident as claimed. Where an opening seal is visibly covered over by another feature, like a lid or a flip top, the lid can be opened, the under seal easily broken, the product tampered with, and then the pack re-closed to disguise the crime. What’s the point of this? Perhaps the marketing people insisted on the feel or visual effect of the outer lid or flip top? I don’t know. I do know that it’s not tamper evident, itÂ’s probably very expensive and it’s out of touch with today’s consumers expectations for safe, cost effective, and of course easy to open packaging or am I just getting grumpy in my old age?