I will never look at a tube of toothpaste — or any other tube, for that matter — the same way again. Not after going through the Essel Propack website and discovering the effort and research that goes into the creation of just one tube.
Essel Propack, the first company that introduced laminated tubes in India, was founded by Dr Subash Chandra as ‘Essel Packaging’ in 1982. Within two years, it had set up a manufacturing facility to make laminates and laminated tubes.
Till then, all tubes were available only in aluminium. Within a few years of its introduction, the laminated tube had replaced aluminium completely.
The company, however, started to grow in leaps and bounds only about a decade later, when professionals were brought in to run it. In the 1990s, it created a record of sorts by going global with the setting up of overseas plants in Egypt, China and Germany and later expanding into Nepal and the US.
In 2000, it acquired what was then the world’s fourth largest lamitube company — Switzerland’s Propack AG — and became Essel Propack Ltd (EPL). This gave it a technological advantage in the form of a high-speed but less-expensive tubing procedure patented by Propack, and the company was therefore able to expand capacity at lower cost.
The company gained a foothold in the US when it was approached by P&G to supply their entire range of tubes in all global markets. To this end, in 2002, it set up a greenfield facility in Danville, US, brought the workers over to India for training, and commenced production with the newly trained team.
More acquisitions followed — indeed, the company grew inorganically at a very fast rate. In 2004, it acquired Arista Tubes of UK and renamed it Essel Propack, UK. The Russian market was penetrated in 2005, the same year it acquired Telcon Packaging, UK, and set up another manufacturing facility in Nalagarh, Himachal Pradesh.
In 2006, Essel Propack entered the medical scene when it acquired catheter manufacturers Tacpro Inc, US and Avalon Medical Services, Singapore. It also acquired Packaging India, one of the largest manufacturers of specialty packaging materials in India.
Over the years, Essel Propack entered other markets like Poland and set up more manufacturing units.
What made Essel Propack so competitive even in international markets? Experts cite its integrated manufacturing strategy — something as simple as its model of building tubing lines within the customer’s filling capacity, thus reducing overall production costs.
Cater to all demands
Today, the company’s products are manufactured at 25 manufacturing units spread across 12 countries. The product range straddles segments such as beauty and cosmetics (creams, lotions, scrubs, balms, shampoos, conditioners and hair colourants); pharma and health (gels and ointments); food (jam, cheese, condensed milk, sauce, honey), home care (shoe polish, paints, crayons, adhesives, grease, wax, pest control); and oral care (toothpaste and other dental products).
Each of these segments requires specialised tubes. Pharma and health need 100 per cent sterile tubes, for which Essel Propack has set up a certified clean room. For beauty products, the emphasis is on style and glamour. Food products have to come in user-friendly tubes that are high on hygiene and visual appeal. Not only that, food and dairy products require packaging that can withstand temperatures up to 90 degrees Celsius. Oral care products need high-quality barrier coatings to keep the formulations fresh for long periods.
Home-care products are a different category altogether — comprising cleaning and hygiene-related items — they require tubes that are not only resistant to oil and other chemicals but also ones that keep products effective for long durations.
The caps and closures offered for these tubes differ according to the ingredient inside — nozzles, tamper-proof nozzles, pinch-off tubes, safety-seal tubes, long nozzles and snap-off heads are the options offered, depending on the contents and mode of use.
Essel Propack has state-of-the-art laboratories for research and development of products to fit different client requirements. Its latest products are ‘Glow in the Dark’ tubes, ‘Super titanium’ tubes for oral care and food products, ‘Mystik’ for aggressive product formulations, a lightweight tube ‘Aeir’, a high clarity UV shield tube ‘Clarion’, ‘Velvetie’ tubes that are soft and smooth, a high-lustre laminated tube ‘Egnite’, ‘Prizm’ — a holographic printed tube, ‘Green Maple Leaf’ and ‘Etain’.
Essel Propack has taken great efforts to go green with its new initiatives. Super Titanium tubes are made with next-generation polymers that reduce the product’s carbon footprint without compromising on functionality; Aeir, with its reduced weight, helps in sustaining the environment; Etain, made from recycled plastics, is in itself fully recyclable; and Green Maple Leaf is a thermoplastic laminate that is recyclable and eco-friendly.
The company has made recycling of multilayer laminates possible by separating the aluminium and polymer in the structure. It has launched ‘Project Liberty’ to ensure that ‘Every single tube made by Essel is recyclable’ — a major breakthrough in environmental sustainability.
Essel Propack’s R&D team continues to research newer and better products under real-life test conditions; the company has garnered more than 35 patents globally. About a hundred more patent applications await approval. It is interesting to learn that for a product that most of us don’t even take a second look at, the research is exhaustive, covering a wide variety of fields related to barrier layers (EVOH, aluminium foil); laminate structure (resin-based); look, feel and decoration (design, print, graphics, smoothness); dispensing (caps, nozzles); product safety (authentication); brand value enhancement; and security features (tamper-proofing, child protection). Apart from this, the three R’s — Reduce, Recycle and Recover — of environmental sustainability are always kept in mind.
Quality checks, recognition
International Standard Test Procedures are followed in final checks and audits and are in line with IS 2500 Part 1 (2000) or ISO 2859-1(1999) standards for sampling.
Based on the research, and after consultation with individual clients, mock-up samples with ingredient materials undergo testing.
Such attention to detail could be the reason why Essel Propack has about 400 clients worldwide. Customers in India include Dabur, Emami, Marico, Vicco, Godrej and Patanjali (oral and skin care products); and Piramal, Dr Reddy’s and Sun Pharma (medical care). Globally, companies such as P&G, L’Oréal Paris, Colgate and Johnson & Johnson use Essel Propack.
The company’s turnover in 2019 was around ₹2,800 crore. Laminated tubes accounted for the lion’s share of this. International sales was more than 60 per cent of sales.
On the CSR front, the company has taken an active interest in ensuring water security for communities and has completed seven water-related projects.
Essel Propack has won several awards across such categories as materials, design, planning and performance: the ‘Best Tube’ Bronze Award in the sustainability category — a laminate structure using a 20 per cent organically-grown, plant-based resin; ‘Best Tube’ Bronze Award in the pharmaceutical category — a tube with child-resistant closure and plastic-barrier laminate; ‘SIES SOP Star Award 2018’ for Tube with Unique Dispensing Nozzle; JDA Express Logistics & Supply Chain Leadership Award 2018 for ‘Best Project Contribution to Organisational Value Sustainability & Innovation’; and the ‘IMC Ramakrishna Bajaj National Quality Performance Excellence Trophy’ 2015 for its manufacturing unit in Goa.
So the next time you use toothpaste or an ointment, take a closer look at the tube. You will find the letters ‘EPL’ or the name Essel Propack Ltd printed on it.