The concept of "fresh" is one of the major trends we have seen across all types of consumer products. Consumers are looking for products that are fresh, which can mean just prepared or minimally processed. Of course, "fresh" also refers to time, meaning how old a product is. With all the recent scares regarding product contamination, it is a logical step for consumers to be extremely concerned about when a product becomes outdated.
Most perishable products on the market bear "sell by" or "use by" dates, but those dates are often quite confusing to consumers. For instance, do you know how long after the "sell by" date is okay for a product to be used? Does "use by" mean "open by," or "completely use by"? Therefore, having a clearer, more simple way of communicating to consumers when a product is past its prime makes sense, especially in category like personal care.
This lip gloss is popping
The personal care category is one that typically does not carry "best by" dates on its products. Many now do carry "period after opening" opening dates (especially after European legislation requiring it was passed), but more often a "best buy" date is not included. One only has to peruse consumer magazines that focus on fashion to find articles about when to toss your cosmetics to understand that consumers are looking for more information. For lip gloss, bacteria begins interacting with the product when the package is first opened.
The cosmetics company Cargo has long been known for its unique and eco-friendly packaging. This is the company that introduced lipstick with an outer carton that was impregnated with flower seeds. Consumers were encouraged to sow the carton, thereby recycling the board carton in their gardens and reaping the colorful benefits.
Now the company is using something a bit more high-tech for one of its latest products, new shades of its 2009 lip gloss. The cap features Timestrip® technology to show when the gloss needs to be replaced. Timestrip is a strip that "remembers" when the product was first opened and alerts the user when using the product is no longer wise. The company says that the lip gloss should be used within nine months, and the strip will be completely red by that time. Consumers should then discard the lip gloss—and buy another one, of course!
The Timestrip smart label technology comes from a UK-based firm of the same name, which manufacturers these strips for a wide range of applications. The company says the Timestrip consists of a porous membrane through which a food-grade liquid diffuses in a consistent and repeatable way. The strip is activated when the user first inserts it into the cap, and the red color gradually makes its way from "1" to "9" months.
Consumers will certainly feel the "Wow!" when they first discover the functionality of the package, as Cargo has adopted the technology in a way that makes it virtually foolproof for consumers. Now if I only had a Timestrip on that container of unidentifiable leftovers in the back of the fridge…