As background, Easysnap’s brilliant genesis was in banal irritation. Several years ago while eating a hamburger, Hennie was irked by the tricky messiness of condiment sachets and consequently put his mind to devising a cleaner and more convenient solution. This inveterate inventor came up with Easysnap, a sachet that comprises a rigid backing on one side and a flexible printed film on the other. The genius aspect of the packaging lies in its unique opening system: the user simply squeezes the two ends, the folding pressure breaks a variable cut in the rigid side of the pack, and the liquid or gel is then discharged in a controlled manner. Release the pack, and there’s no further spillage.
The applications are myriad to dispense any type of liquid or viscous product across food, cosmetics, pharmaceutical, hair care, chemical and household sectors.
While Easysnap is Hennie’s brainchild, it has been realised and engineered by partners in Italy as the technical know-how to build the fillers wasn’t available locally. The pack is now registered under various names in different countries, for instance it’s known as ‘Snap and Squeeze’ in the UK and as ‘Butterfly’ in the US.
First to the food market in South Africa has been Willow Creek Olive Estate that has launched the sachets filled with 8ml of its premium Directors’ Reserve Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Cabernet Sauvignon Balsamic Style Vinegar respectively (highlighted in Clive’s Column last month).
Caption: The winning ways of Easysnap: hygienic, clean, easy opening and dispensing; vacuum filling for extended product shelf life; high-integrity seals, even for oily or textured products; withstands extreme pressures.
‘Easysnap has drawn huge interest and response, but it has always been my intention to roll it out cautiously and systematically,’ says Hennie. ‘As with any exciting new technology, there are many takers until it gets to the production and pricing realities of a premium pack. Innovative thinking often requires a simple, one-step-at-a-time approach to succeed. But Willow Creek has stepped up to invest in what it believes is a striking point of convenience and differentiation, and so far so good, if ongoing orders are an indicator,’ he adds.
Says Willow Creek’s marketing manager, Louise Rabie: ‘It’s our aim to be the first, the best or different, and, when chance allows, all three. We believe the Easysnap sachets are an ingenious packaging concept for single servings of our product and we’ve obtained the rights as the exclusive distributor of olive oil and balsamic vinegar in the format. It has been exceptionally well received nationally, as well as abroad, and we’re bringing out a third line with an olive oil and balsamic combination. We’re also launching it in the retail market soon.’
Hennie currently has two Easysnap machines pumping out sachets at his Somerset West factory, and he reports that there are several potential contracts waiting in the wings that could rocket its fortunes and require the purchase of a number of additional fillers.
Internationally, his Italian partners already have 21 machines in operation, in Europe, Australia and the US.
Hennie has sole rights to all filling machines sold in the southern hemisphere, and his IP and income is secured not only by international patents but also by an exclusive supply agreement with Huhtamaki for the all-important base material. He also earns royalties from each pack produced – electronically monitored and communicated by the fillers.
While Easysnap is making headway in the food sector, Hennie has found several enthusiastic cosmetic/pharma customers, himself included.
BioEarth’s gel business
Long before Easysnap came along, Hennie ran a successful gel-based cosmetic/pharma manufacturing and outsource business called BioEarth Laboratories. This, too, had an interesting beginning back in the early 1990s, and was inspired by watching his unborn fourth child on an ultrasound scan. Frustrated by what he couldn’t see, he queried why the picture was so poor. Conductive gels of wanting quality was the answer.
And so this PhD in chemical engineering set about developing a solution, applying what he knew about rocket fuels and gels for the medical world. One year later he won the entire national government hospital tender for ECG/ultrasound/physio gels.
Caption: BioEarth Labs produces a wide range of mainly gel-based therapeutic and beauty products. The packaging, mainly tubes, is clean and clinical. ‘We use a lot of packaging in our plant, and I’m very interested in packaging solutions, in doing things more efficiently,’ says Hennie. One strategy is to utilise minimal material vendors to gain favourable pricing through larger orders.
While scanning and massage gels for the medical profession remain a core aspect of BioEarth Laboratories’ output and it retains a majority share of this market, the company produces several other ranges based on therapeutic essential oils and herbal formulations. These currently include some 30 SKUs in its Cosmetic, Bath, Healing, Earth, Baby, Sport, Outdoor and Sensual ranges, which are sold via distributors and retailed nationally in pharmacies. Contract manufacturing, too, comprises a significant part of BioEarth’s production and it supplies over 50 customers in the salon, hospitality, spa and fitness sectors.
‘Gels are a great medium for body products. Our gels are water soluble, non-sticky, non flaky, dry quickly and don’t leave a residue on the skin,’ says Hennie. ‘The formulations are remarkably effective due to the rapid absorption of the gel with its active ingredients through the skin. Their pleasant aromatic qualities are an added bonus.’
BioEarth Laboratories is also the outsource home of an advanced and natural treatment process that’s gaining credence around the world. Called Tri-Vortex, this is an advanced sound technology used to treat products made of almost any material (from stainless steel to water), which creates a resonance or subtle vibration within them and has proven (albeit still to be clinically trialled) to have many benefits for humans, animals and plants. Amazingly, once the various gels or skin-care products have been treated, they have rejuvenating, anti-ageing and effective pain relieving properties.
Tri-Vortex-enhanced therapeutic gels are produced in six special chambers set up in BioEarth’s plant, and Hennie swears by their improved efficacy. This intriguing technology is but another story (read more at http://www.trivortex.co.za).
Hennie is putting Easysnap to good use with his own BioEarth products, with ten-unit single-dose or sample packs merchandised alongside the tubes. ‘This is an effective way to encourage trial of the product and they also offer all-important portability and convenience,’ he comments.
The Easysnap concept has also been adopted by two of South Africa’s leading dermatological companies, Environ and Bio-Oil. Both are using it for hundreds of thousands of sample packs of their popular products. Interestingly, too, he was recently awarded a contract to produce a long run of hand sanitiser in Easysnap, part of a public health trial in the Eastern Cape to reduce illnesses among pupils at rural schools that lack sanitation facilities.
How confident is he that Easysnap will ultimately live up to its potential? ‘Supremely! But nothing happens overnight. The hardest part of innovating is not the invention itself, it’s taking the technology to market that’s difficult,’ Hennie answers. ‘Creating new technology is not the problem. But persuading customers to invest in it, raising market awareness and obtaining market acceptance can take years.’
When it comes to packaging, he adds, what’s important is to make sure you’re adding value. ‘Easysnap absolutely adds value and addresses a need that isn’t being met by other sachet or sampling options,’ he maintains. ‘It greatly improves the functionality and user interation of the package at a small premium, and even that will disappear once volumes and economies of scale are established.’
There’s no doubt this is a brilliant, home-grown packaging concept that deserves global success – it has already garnered global attention, winning two packaging awards: the Novel Pack of 2007 in the Milan Packaging Awards, and a WorldStar for Best Packaging in the Health and Cosmetic Industry in 2008. Will it become the standard for the single-serve, sampling sachet? Time will tell – and you can be sure that PPM will be there to continue this fascinating tale.