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Stability & Challenge Testing
Your company’s reputation, consumer confidence and the possibility of wasting valuable marketing dollars are just a few good reasons to test your product’s shelf-life and stability before launching it to the marketplace.
Simply adding a preservative to your product is not sufficient to determine if it is working effectively in your specific formulation.
The choice and proportion of preservative to the water content and other active ingredients is important to get right. Plus other factors such as pH levels and exposure to heat can render a preservative ineffective if manufacturing methodology is not compatible. The bottom line is, if the preservative is ineffective the product will spoil and run the risk of causing skin irritations or other health problems if used by the consumer.
Further to this, the consumer, your customer, trusts your product label. So if your label claims your product will be good for a shelf life of 2 years, you must be sure the product will remain unchanged when stored under the conditions of the market in which it is sold, for that period.
What can you do to have trouble-free products?
There are a variety of tests that can be performed by laboratories and by the manufacturer to answer this question and to help you to plan and execute trouble-free product launches.
Undertaking Challenge testing will assess the efficacy of the preserving system and determine microbial stability in your product. Microbial contaminants can originate either during manufacture and filling or from the time the product is first opened and during use by the customer. Microbial contamination can lead to product spoilage or reduce the intended quality of the product. The main areas of concern for potential irritations are the eye zone, damaged skin or in children under 3 years. Challenge testing will contribute to determining the safety of the product for use by the customer.
Stability testing enables you to estimate shelf-life of your product by simulating what will happen during its life cycle in order to predict its stability once in the marketplace. Tests on each new product may be conducted in real time or under accelerated conditions. Elements that are assessed include the physical integrity of the product under various storage conditions, transportation and use, chemical stability, microbiological quality and compatibility between the product and its packaging.
The testing process
To be valid, all tests should be in the intended final packaging and also in glass jars as a control sample. This will enable you to isolate either the product formulation or the packaging as the cause if a batch fails.
Challenge testing involves the controlled contamination of the product with a selection of known potential pathogens and possibly other micro-organisms (bacteria and fungi). The product’s reactions to these organisms is monitored at selected intervals and levels of growth measured to ensure they fall below accepted limits. These tests will demonstrate the preservative’s ability to protect the product from microbial growth.
Stability testing programs and procedures are typically designed by each manufacturer and adapted to their specific activities and with relevance to the number of products they develop each year.
Tests are designed to determine the vulnerability of a product during shipping, storage, display and utilisation by the end-user.
Product characteristics that can be monitored include; pH, viscosity, texture, colour, odour and flow. Assessments of these characteristics can be made after several weeks or months, rather than waiting years, by using accelerated testing methods. This approach is advantageous as it enables shorter lead times to launch a new product to market.
Product samples are subjected to a variety of temperatures. Temperatures are elevated as well as lowered to replicate seasonal changes as well as climate zone variations. Some standard temperatures that are used are 45°C, 37°C, 25°C, 4°C and -17°C (freezing). Test evaluations take place at predetermined intervals such as 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 8, 12 and 52 weeks. At the 8 week point most formulations can be regarded as stable or not, however longer testing timeframes will enable extended shelf life claims.
Products and their packaging can also be susceptible to UV damage. This could result in colour changes and/or deterioration of key ingredients. Therefore samples are also subjected to different lighting conditions such as fluorescent and natural light boxes.
And, of course we need to move the product from one location to another. So, to simulate shipping conditions, centrifuge or vibration testing can be carried out. This will determine if an emulsion will hold together and if suspended ingredients will remain suspended.
Well designed formulations, good manufacturing practices and appropriate preserving systems are the first steps. Follow this with thorough, diligent challenge and stability testing systems and you will have peace of mind that your product is safe in the hands of the consumer, your marketing expenses will not be wasted and your brand reputation will go untarnished.
The presentation of your product is one of the first ways your prospective customer receives your branding message. If you engage a designer to help create your look, feel and logo, ensure you brief them well on the elements that are important to you.
As far as label content is concerned, there are some mandatory Australian regulations that must be complied with and others that are optional. (See THE LIST for more information on this).
This is a guideline of what to include:
• Your logo and brand name
• Product name (in English and/or with the Latin botanical name)
• Product size
• Instructions for storage and use (refer to SEOC labels as a guide)
• Your business name and street address (PO box is not acceptable)
• Web and telephone are optional
• Batch no. and best by date are also optional
Design concepts should also be reviewed in conjunction with how you plan to print your labels. Each printing style will have specific nuances and it is best to be familiar with the artwork set up requirements early in the process.
Some things to be aware of include:
File formats: Should be compatible to your printer’s software. If you are supplying the printer finished artwork, ask for an artwork specification to confirm which programs they operate with and to ensure the files are set up correctly.
Pantone PMS colour or CMYK : Pantone PMS colour is spot colour and typically more vibrant. CMYK is a 4-colour process that combines Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black to create the final colour. Most Pantones can be converted to CMYK but whilst they will not be exactly the same, it does mean that they are adaptable to all printing styles. This is particularly relevant when finalising your logo colours, as your logo will have numerous applications such as signage, corporate stationery, office décor, etc.
Paper stock & finishes: Also impact on how your colours translate after printing. Matt stocks absorb the inks more, so colours sit back and are more subdued. Whereas the inks sit on top of gloss stocks and colours appear brighter.
Photos: Aim for at least 300dpi resolution to obtain good results. Lower resolution may result in grainy poor quality reproductions.
Common colours: If printing several product labels together and working with Pantones, using common colours on all labels will keep the costs down. Some designs may lend themselves to colour variations between product groups, so if they share some but not all common colours talk to your printer about the most economical way to approach this. This is not relevant with CMYK.
Finishes: This is really the icing on the cake. If the design is excellent and the finish is poor, the overall impression is not great. So look at the options of matt or gloss varnish, celloglaze, foiling or a spot varnish to give lift to one element of the design e.g. the logo.
Choosing the most appropriate type of label should relate to your projected sales volumes. It is worth exploring the costs of several options before making your decision.
Very small runs (up to 200): Can be accommodated on a good quality home laser or ink jet printer. These are typically CMYK print process, so see above for design guidelines. Research your printer equipment well so it accommodates your requirements and choose label stock that is compatible. Avery labels are readily available from stationery stores. Or try wholesale suppliers such as ‘K.W. Doggett’ or ‘Label Line’, as both offer a larger range of A4 label sheets in a variety of shapes, colours and finishes along with matching templates. You can request samples to trial on your printer, but note they do also have an order minimum.
Small to medium runs (200-2000): Suit digital printing as you can get a variety produced in low quantities. The quality of digital print has improved enormously in the last few years. So talk to your printer about the results you require, and they can quote you appropriately. Digital is usually CMYK process plus you can also request high quality finishes. Typically 100 x A4 sheets would be an economical minimum and only costs a few hundred dollars. But another option is to request they be cut into individual labels. If you do this consider a split-back option as it is easier to peel and adhere to your bottles.
Medium to long runs (2000+): Suit offset printing as the cost of producing plates and die cuts can be amortised across more labels. These are also a one-off cost, so repeat print runs are cheaper. Offset gives you great flexibility in shape, size, corners and special finishes such as foiling or embossing. Many offset printers will have a selection die cuts that you can use or they can also print on pre-cut label sheets. But when updating or changing your labels for future print runs, new plates need to be created and this incurs extra costs.
Very long runs (50,000 +): Are most economical when produced on rolls. If your volumes suit this type of printing, ensure you brief the printer on how your labels will be adhered to the bottles. If by machine, they will require details on the set-up so the labels are oriented correctly on the rolls. When you are selecting a printer it’s a good idea to look at few different suppliers so you can compare price and quality.
These are a few things to ask:
• Request quotes for a few different quantities (e.g. 100, 500 & 1000 of each label) and ask the printer’s advice for the most economical options. Advise them of the type of product you are labelling and request the label be finished in an oil resistant film such as celloglaze.
• Confirm the adhesive backing on the label stock will be strong enough for the small essential oil bottle.
• Discuss options with square cut or rounded corners. Rounded corners generally do not peel up on the corners as much. But if the adhesive is strong enough, the square cut will be fine.
• Check their print quality, line screen resolution and request to see some samples of past label jobs they have produced.
• Check lead time (this is usually indicated from time of receiving approved artwork).
• Ask if they also offer a design service.
Talk to us if we can be of further assistance. We look forward to the opportunity of being the brand behind your brand.
Is Your Product Labelled Correctly?
Your natural cosmetic product has been developed. You have researched the ingredients and created or expanded your brand. You’ve invested valuable time in finding suitable packaging and developing a label design brief. But how can you be sure you have packaged and labelled your product correctly?
Australian regulations for cosmetic packaging and labelling can be confusing, as several governing bodies have varying requirements you must follow. To help you navigate more easily, we’ve compiled a check list of the important key points to note.
One: In Australia we use the metric system of measurement. It may seem straightforward but keep in mind the basics, be sure products for sale in the Australian market are not labelled with pounds or pints.
Two: Different categories of products are measured and labelled in different ways. Solid products, semi-solids and powders are measured by ‘mass’ (weight). Whereas liquids are measured by ‘volume’. Products measured by mass are labelled using kilograms (kg), grams (g) or milligrams (mg). Grams are suitable when the nett weight is less than one kilogram and milligrams are suitable when weight is less than one gram. Products measured by volume are labelled in litres (L) or millilitres (mL). Millilitres are used when the product is less than one litre. In both cases, these measurements are exclusive of the packaging.
Three: When you fill your packaging, the amount of product inside must be equal to or greater than the size printed on the label. Some international policies allow a tolerance, but Australian regulations clearly indicate that if the product states 100g, the minimum measure must be 100g. This is important to note if your product can potentially lose weight over time, for example through water evaporation, as you will need to compensate at the point of fill.
Four: Ingredient lists must be clearly visible and legible on the container or attached directly to the product or its display unit if there is no outer packaging. The ingredients must be stated as an English name, Latin Botanical name or the relevant INCI name. Trade names may not be used. Ingredients in concentration of 1% or more must be listed in descending order by volume. Followed by ingredients of less than 1% that may be listed in any order.
Five: Your full company name and street address must be clearly labelled. A PO Box is not acceptable. Imported products must also carry an Australian street address. This may be achieved either through repackaging or over-labelling with the local distributor’s details.
Six: In order for a product to be labelled “Product of Australia”, it must include 100% Australian content. This means that every ingredient must be from Australia. Whereas, the label claim of “Made in Australia” can be utilised when the product has undergone significant alteration and the majority of the manufacturing costs have occurred in Australia. Of the two, the latter is more commonly achievable as many ingredients are often sourced international ly.
Seven: Packaging selection must be appropriate to the size of the product. Using packaging that misleads the consumer by giving the appearance of a larger size is not permitted. Caps, thickness of packaging material and gift packs are all covered by this legislation to ensure fair practices. This should be taken into consideration when designing and sourcing.
Eight: Compatibility of your packaging with the product also requires consideration. A product may travel through varying temperatures and environments during transportation and storage, all of which can affect its stability. The manufacturer must be confident that the chosen packaging is capable of withstanding these variations in the market in which it is to be sold and that the product will maintain its optimal state for use by the end-consumer.
Nine: Expiry dates and batch numbers are not mandatory. However, they are certainly a recommended inclusion to support consumer confidence and safe use of your product.
Ten: A final consideration in your packaging development should be the waste that results when our product is gifted or consumed. By keeping pack sizes and non-essential packaging to a minimum, along with choosing recyclable materials, you will minimise the environmental impact of your product and encourage a positive perception of your brand.
This article is a guideline only, it does not reflect the full content of the relevant regulations. For full information on cosmetic labelling regulations in Australia go to www.accc.gov.au and www.nicnas.gov.au. For full information on packaging go to www.comlaw.gov.au, www.ephc.gov.au, www.packagingcovenant.org.au or www.pca.org.au. We recommend checking periodically for published updates.
ACO Organic Certification
Written by Madeline Cooper
With organic farming set to be Australia’s number one growth industry in 2011 (Ibis World, 2011), there are a myriad of opportunities for companies to make the most of this trend – a leading growth sector within the industry is the often lucrative organic cosmetics market, making certified organic cosmetics and skincare potentially the fastest growth industry in Australia.
The UK’s Organic Monitor, a specialist research and consulting company on global organic industries, has released a market report that forecasts the market share of certified organic and natural products will more than double in the coming years. The growth is fuelled by growing consumer concern surrounding synthetic chemicals in cosmetics, in addition to expanded availability and mainstream marketing of increasing numbers of new products being launched.
Australian Certified Organic (ACO) is Australia’s largest and most widely recognised organic certifier. The ACO ‘bud’ is found on more than 80 per cent of certified organic products sold in Australia and according to research by Mobium Group has achieved at least double the recognition of any other logo in the organic marketplace. Managing Director, Akiko Nicholls, says ACO cosmetics have a
high reputation both in Australia and in international markets where the logo is recognised for meeting some of the world’s most stringent organic cosmetics standards.
“The Australian Certified Organic Standard, to which ACO products are certified, is one of the few practical cosmetic standards in the world of which requirements remain close to organic food standards and which provides a real market advantage in many regions, particularly Asia, where consumers are more questioning of organic and natural claims,” says Akiko.
“ACO certified cosmetics are accepted by most major trading countries without any additional requirements including the EU and most Asian countries. “ACO cosmetic products are becoming popular in markets like Japan and Korea, where consumers pay more attention to the product ingredients’ source. In Australia and overseas, consumers are becoming more aware of the ingredients in organic products and savvy about what certification logos they can trust,” she says.
In particular, ACO cosmetics are becoming recognised for the fact that they cannot be tested on animals, contain no GM ingredients and require a natural extraction process for all ingredients.
The Certification Process
What are Australian Certified Organic cosmetics?
While ACO certifies to some of the most stringent standards for organic cosmetics available worldwide, this doesn’t mean the process is necessarily complicated. ACO cosmetics and skincare products with label claim of “Certified Organic” must contain more than 95% certified organic ingredients. The remaining small percentage (maximum 5%) of non-organic ingredients must consist of naturally produced plant products, minerals and/or natural, non toxic preservatives/additives.
Made with Certified Organic ingredients
In a move towards promoting greater consumer confidence in organic beauty and personal care products, ACO also licenses use of a logo specifically for beauty products to give authenticity to the claim “made with certified organic ingredients”. The logo may be used on products containing between 70 and 95 per cent organic ingredients.
“In the beauty world, it can often be difficult for products to meet the 95 per cent organic ingredients rule and until now consumers have not had the benefit of knowing if products containing less than 95% organic ingredients are endorsed by ACO,” says Akiko. “The new ‘Beauty’ logo gives consumers more choice and new confidence in products that are natural while still containing between 70 and 95 per cent organic ingredients.”
As with all ACO products, the non-organic component of these products making the claim “made with certified organic ingredients” must still be natural and meet stringent requirements in order to carry the logo as well as undergo annual audits.
How about mineral-based products?
While they cannot be labelled ‘organic’, mineral-based products, which are becoming increasingly popular within the beauty and cosmetics market, can be registered with BFA to carry the Bud logo
however with the words “BFA Approved Product”.
“While they are completely natural and contain no harmful chemicals or preservatives – minerals are not cultivated in soil so cannot be classified as organic,” says Akiko. “But, consumers seeking naturally-derived mineral-based cosmetics are reassured by BFA’s endorsement and the Bud mark.”
Registration has a different process to the ACO certification process detailed below, however registered products still benefit from the market advantages of the Bud (for more information about registration please contact 07 3350 5706).
Steps to Certification with ACO
Certification of a cosmetic or skincare product can take from as little as two to three weeks (fast track option) to three months. This timeframe depends on the company’s commitment to having suitable documentation and personnel available to assist throughout the auditing and documentation review process.
6 Easy steps!
All operations involved in processing and repacking the product or ingredients must be certified in order for the final product to be ACO certified.
1. Submit an application form to ACO along with payment of the application fee.
2. Submit a statutory declaration and organic management plan to ACO to start the Document Review process (forms available from ACO office or the ACO website).
3. The Audit: an ACO auditor will conduct an on-site audit of your operation.
4. You will receive a Licence Agreement to sign and return to ACO.
This agreement may contain corrective actions that need to be responded to before the product/operation can be certified.
5. Once your account is paid and corrective actions made for achieving compliance, ACO will advise you that your application has been successful.
6. You can now market your product as Australian Certified Organic or BFA Approved Product (for mineral based products).
To maintain your certification with ACO your operation will be audited annually to ensure the organic integrity of your system has been maintained.
For further information you can contact ACO at the Brisbane head office on ph 07 3350 5716 or +61 7 3350 5716 for international inquiries; firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.aco.net.au.