Packaging Powders In Paper Tubes

by David Molo February 22, 2023

We regularly get approached by individuals and businesses who want to use paper tubes to package various fine powdered products. While the range of product ingredients varies, the form factor remains fairly constant. This is a post about what works, what you should consider, and what we can ultimately make for you.
We have worked with many types of powdered products with most of them falling into one particular category - Food and Nutrition. We’ve produced tube packaging for protein powders, cricket powders, cacao, baking mixes, ground coffee, powdered collagen supplements, matcha, drink mixes, pre-workouts, and pretty much everything in between. With all of them, our customers had specific needs they wanted to address. Here’s a list of things to consider based on what we've been asked about:

    • Shelf life - how long can your product stay on the shelf before it expires or loses quality
    • Ingredients - do your ingredients require air-tight packaging
    • Usage - how is your customer going to use the product
    • Messaging - what does your packaging say about your product
    • Shelf appeal - will your product attract the right customers on a store shelf
    • Unboxing - will your product create a positive unboxing experience
    • Sustainability - what is the end of life look like for your packaging

For example, if your product has to have a 2 year shelf life and contains ingredients that require an air-tight package, that’s obviously going to dictate your packaging direction from a construction standpoint.

Another example, if your customer is going to be required to measure out precise proportions of your product, will you need to include a scoop or does your product come in single-serve packets?

One final example, if you’re here, chances are you’re considering paper tubes due to their shelf appeal and sustainability. If that’s the case, you’ll probably want to go with something that’s plastic-free and fully recyclable. But what if your product needs a liner and air-tight construction?

When considering all of those things, keep your priorities in mind. There are needs and there are nice-to-haves. Our packaging consultants will walk you through the options, but here are some basic principles.

Option 1 - “the most eco-friendly”
If your main priority is sustainability, you’re going to need a tube that’s plastic-free, easily recyclable, made using FSC certified paper, and printed with soy vegetable-based inks. We make those types of tubes every day. Consider the sustainability / functionality / user experience Venn diagram below.

When it comes to packaging powered food products, there’s always going to be some sacrifice in those three areas. In this particular case where the tube is as sustainable as it can get, you’ll have to consider how the product is going to stay fresh for your desired period of time. Many of our customers put the powder in a sealed bag (or single-serve packets) and use the eco-friendly tubes as secondary packaging. There are compostable bag options available. Now, when your customers purchase your product, they’ll need to open the tube, tear open the bag and use the powder. It’s not a bad experience, but some could argue that scooping the product straight out of the tube is better. So you can put your powder right into the tube and skip the bag. This is fine also, and many of our customers do that, but in some cases, you’re shortening the lifespan and potentially impacting the freshness. If you’re one of those people, here’s another option.

Option 2 - “the most functional”
Let’s say you’re packaging powdered collagen and you need a 2 year shelf life and you also don’t want your customers to deal with an extra bag inside the tubes. In this case, what you’re looking for is a hermetically sealed composite can. This type of tube typically comes with special foil + PE lining barrier inside that ensures product freshness. It also comes with an attached peelable metal membrane at the top and a metal disc on the bottom. Unless you have canning equipment, you’ll need to work with a 3rd party filler who will fill the tubes with your product and then attach a metal bottom after flushing the inside with a special gas that removes all oxygen from inside the container. This is why it’s called a hermetically sealed composite (multiple layers of materials) can. This type is air-tight construction will give you the most shelf life. You commonly see these tubes in your local specialty grocery stores. Think Dose & Co, Pringles, and Planters Nuts.

What you get with this type of tube is great functionality and a reduction in plastic consumption over traditional plastic jar packaging commonly used in the powdered supplement industry. What you don’t get is eco-friendly packaging by the same definition as option one above. It’s still better than plastic, but not as sustainable. Now, there is a third option.

Option 3 - “the hybrid”
If neither of the two options above sound appealing and you want more functionality than secondary packaging tubes and more sustainable than composite cans, this may be a good solution. We have a variety of plastic-free inner liners that give you some barrier properties (not as good as foil lining) and certain tube construction add-ons that will ensure a good user experience. Depending on your product formulation you’ll probably not get the same shelf life as you would with air-tight tubes, but if your product is filled at purchase and consumed quickly, this hybrid solution should be perfect.

Finally, the one thing we didn’t talk about is order quantity. If you’re considering Option 2, your filler will probably have minimum order quantity requirements. In order to fill the tubes and seal them properly, you will need special production equipment. That equipment is expensive to purchase and expensive to set up, so you’re likely going to see minimum fill requirements. Talk to whoever is going to be filling your tubes, but from what we've heard, filling minimums can range from 10-20K pcs.

When it comes to our production minimums, Option 1 starts at 1000 pcs MOQ and Options 2 and 3 start at 2500 pcs.

Whichever option you're considering, you should definitely test your exact products with our tube packaging and reach out to our packaging consultants with specific questions. Looking forward to working with you.


photo credits:

isaac nutrition waterbody kahkow dose and co your super promix chico