Pharma & Medical

A Healthy Dose of Dazzle

Posted: September 15, 2012 by
Patrick Henry



The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994 significantly expanded the definition of substances that could be marketed as supplements. It also liberalized the ways in which supplement manufacturers could describe these products in advertising and promotion.

Awareness grew, and today, the nutritional supplement category—including vitamins, minerals, herbs, meal supplements, sports nutrition products, natural food supplements and related products—has taken its place alongside pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter drugs as a powerful generator of health-conscious consumer demand.

The packaging of supplements reflects their market status, and it’s usually necessary to look no further than the labels for the evidence. Their designs are on par with the very best that labeled consumer-goods packaging has to offer. Production techniques, such as booklet attachment, augment their good looks with expanded information delivery.

Split-second, quality message

Strong colors overprinting bright chrome is the signature look of labels on Cellucor products for muscle growth, weight loss and protein supplementation. Doss Cunningham, CEO, says that the idea behind the high-visibility labels on Cellucor packages is to enable shoppers “to see in a split second that they’ve found the highest quality products in the store,” regardless of price point.

The design of the labels, he adds, also conveys the clean, timeless look that distinguishes Cellucor products on the shelf—a look that spurns images of over-pumped body parts and the other visual clichés of supplement packaging.

A Cellucor package that’s unique in its category relies on an innovative label structure to make the packaging concept work. M5 Extreme, a workout enhancer, comes in a split canister that lets users blend its two main ingredients according to their own requirements. Dan Lourenco, Cellucor’s director of branding communications, says that the mix-it-yourself option distinguishes M5 Extreme from other pre-workout formulas, which typically are pre-blended.

The package divides into two separate canisters upon opening, and the label breaks at a perforation to facilitate the split. Adhesive holds the label sections firmly in place and preserves the alignment of the design. The result, Lourenco says, delivers the right combination of shelf appeal and container utility.

John McDowell, president of McDowell Label, says that the M5 labels he provided to Cellucor had to be designed to perforate in only one direction so that the branding graphics wouldn’t be harmed when the canisters were separated. High-definition UV printing on a 12-unit flexo press included two rotary foil stamps, one of which was a custom hologram. The label also features what McDowell calls a “rubber dome” tactile effect produced with a special coating on one unit of the press.

Crisp dot screening and nine colors of ink were added to produce a label that not only created a one-of-a-kind look for M5, but also won a first-place award in a Printing Excellence Competition sponsored by TLMI (Tag & Label Manufacturers Institute). McDowell Label used many of the same techniques to produce a label for Super HD, a Cellucor fat burner: rotary foils, crisp dots in the vignettes, rubber dome for feel and grip, and eight highly fluorescent colors specially manufactured to meet brand and lifecycle criteria.

Retail label showcase

A tour of any local GNC retail store indicates the breadth of the range of techniques being applied to product labeling for supplements and nutraceuticals. The package structures consist, for the most part, of stock jars, bottles and closures. All of the branding and marketing energy emanates from the labeling, which billboards the products as it discloses ingredients and other essential information.

N.O.-Xplode, a performance enhancer from BSN, surrounds a red, screw-top jar with a film label that flashes what appear to be holographic highlights in the logotype and the top-and-bottom edging. It was the metallic, reflective touch that stayed when Gaspari Nutrition rebranded its muscle-mass builder, SizeOn, with a new name and a clean, almost clinical look.

In contrast, Con-Crét’s Creatine Micro-Dosing supplement has the ambience of a construction site: a black-and-yellow label motif that is reproduced as alternating stripes in the wide cap, scuffed in the black to evoke the gruelingly hard work of bodybuilding.

Label material is used generously on many of these packages. Often, the film enwraps almost the entire surface of the container. MRI’s NO2 Red Hemo Surge comes in a cylinder covered in crimson tones from the bottom of the jar to the flat top of the cap, leaving just a circle of space to assist tear-off at the perforation. The label on MuscleTech’s MyoBuild growth accelerator also climbs all the way up and over the cap in a sheath of black with undulating yellow highlights.

Overwrapped, opaque containers are popular among supplement products, but some let the light shine in with crystalline packaging materials and label stocks. Censor, a fat reducer from NDS Nutrition, achieves a clear-on-clear-on-clear effect by packaging softgel capsules inside a transparent bottle decorated with an equally limpid label. Black, silver and white are the printing colors.

Real estate development

In contrast to the elaborate nature of the graphics, Cellucor has taken what Lourenco calls a minimalist approach to label information. “It’s a challenge to get people to read label copy,” he explains. “That’s where consumers have been taken, thanks to Apple.” He adds, however, that he’s looking for ways to increase the amount of label real estate that can carry details about product composition and benefits.

It’s an acknowledgment that turning a supplement, nutraceutical or pharmaceutical package into an effective selling medium is also about communicating product information on the container—often, a great deal of information. But basic label real estate, which must also accommodate product images and other graphic information, may not be sufficient to deliver all of the details that the brand owner wishes to convey.

JH Bertrand Inc. recommends copy-expansion solutions such as foldout and booklet labels. Booklet labels can be configured for many different purposes. Some, designed to remain attached to their packages, have peel-back surfaces that can be reclosed. Others can be removed for use as free-standing literature. Besides product information, booklet labels can be used to put coupons, rebate slips, warranty forms and material safety data sheets into end-users’ hands.

Structurally, a booklet label consists of a printed and folded booklet or pamphlet attached to a
carrier—a liner or a base label—that can be machine-affixed to containers on the packaging line. They can be placed on most types of supplement, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical packaging. This type of label also has applications in food and beverage, OTC drug and personal-care categories.  


For more information, visit

JH Bertrand,

McDowell Label,

Tag & Label Manufacturers Institute,