Packaging Liquid Products For Export

Liquid products such as water-based liquids, gels, creams, and oils must meet specific packaging requirements to be eligible for optimum large-scale distribution in the United States and other major export markets. Requirements include:

  • Screw caps;
  • Double seals;
  • No hazardous materials;
  • Plastic bottles or containers, with some exceptions; and
  • Passing a drop test.

Why do items need to survive a drop test? It’s so products will have a chance of surviving the American distribution chain, not breaking in the warehouse, and have a good chance of reaching the customer intact. It’s not that items are handled badly or not looked after, it’s more a function of the sheer scale of distribution operations in America, and World Wide Access takes advantage of some of the biggest and most sophisticated order fulfilment and distribution operations.

Imagine your product on its way to America for a moment. Not only is it packaged up into cartons for export, the cartons stacked onto pallets and those pallets stacked into containers, but at the other end those containers, pallets and cartons will be unpacked and the items stacked on warehouse shelves. When sold to a customer those items will be picked from the shelves, travel around the warehouses in plastic crates before being packaged for courier delivery with any other items the customer has purchased. Those courier packages are labelled and make their way through a delivery sorting process, dropping into bins of packages going to each region. Those customer packages go in any number of trucks, planes, and delivery vans before arriving at the customer’s desk or doorstep. At any step of the way the package, with the delicate product inside it, might be dropped or might topple off onto a concrete floor, no matter how careful the handling. Hence, the “drop test”.

The Drop Test

Items will be dropped three successive times from a metre height on to a concrete surface, once onto the top, once on the corner, and once on either the side or the bottom. A single item must survive the full test of being dropped three times. Success is a leak-free container. Damage to the container is acceptable.

Try it with your product now!

Packaging Requirements

It’s often the case in the United States that the best warehousing operations have the most restrictive requirements. They get efficiency through specialisation, and that means they do what they do well, and they may not support anything outside those boundaries. In the case of liquids, the specific limits to work within for optimum distribution are:

  • Individual plastic containers:
    • maximum liquid volume 1.5 litres (50 oz)
    • maximum package dimensions 20 x 35 x 45 cm (8 x 14 x 18 inches)
    • screw cap
    • double sealed
  • Individual glass containers:
    • maximum liquid volume 120 ml (4 oz)
    • maximum package dimensions 20 x 35 x 45 cm (8 x 14 x 18 inches)
    • screw cap
    • double sealed
  • Multi-unit boxes, when several containers of liquid are included in a box and the box is the product offered for sale:
    • six-sided box
    • box does not give way when medium pressure is applied to any of its sides
    • no openings that make some of the contents visible from the outside
    • contents are securely held in place inside the box
    • box is sealed with tape, glue or staples
    • box has clear markings indicating which side is the top

Exceptions

What if your product in its current packaging doesn’t meet those requirements?

One answer is to repackage for export. That may not be feasible, or might incur undesirable cost and delay. Your product might be packaged in glass bottles larger than 120 ml, for example, or not (yet) have secondary seals beneath its caps.

There are other options. World Wide Access uses a number of different warehouse services, some of which provide more flexibility at higher cost. For example, one of our secondary warehouses is quite capable of handling liquid products in glass bottles, provided they’re properly packaged. The specific requirements are:

  • Suppliers are responsible for ensuring that merchandise is packaged appropriately so as to be sufficiently protected from damage during transit and delivery.
  • For cartons containing glass or plastic bottles, use dividers to protect the merchandise from breakage or crushing.
  • Fragile items should be individually packed in cartons that will protect them from being damaged.
This isn’t a free ride though; products in this secondary warehouse because of its higher cost will not be eligible for a number of sales channels and sales promotions. It might be a good way to get started quickly in the market, but it might not be the best in the long term. For this reason, suppliers should aim to comply with the first list of packaging requirements for liquid products to take best advantage of the opportunities in the United States.

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