US & Global Economic Impact Analysis and Forecasts

Freedonia analysts and economists are sharing their insights on how major events are impacting different parts of the US and global economies.

40th Anniversary of the Tylenol Murders: A Packaging Perspective

It is sometimes quite useful to look backward, even in this blog about looking forward.

This fall is the 40th anniversary of the Tylenol murders, when someone took Tylenol off the shelf, laced the capsules with cyanide, and returned them to the shelves in the Chicago area. Ultimately, 7 died, but the whole national was put on edge. Looking at it from a business perspective, not only is the tragedy an example of how fortunes can change quickly and suddenly for a market leader, it also shows how companies and whole industries can adapt quickly to change how they operate, sometimes permanently.

In this case, two industries – over-the-counter medications and packaging – changed quickly and forever.

OTC pharmaceutical companies developed a new product form (the solid “caplet”) that was designed to be harder to tamper with than the old capsule designs but just as easy to swallow compared to the leading alternative then – uncoated tablets.

The packaging industry quickly developed and added glued boxes, shrink wrap neckbands, and peel-back foil as an inner seal among other tamper evident measures. The FDA announced guidelines on November 5, 1982, and suppliers of capsule and liquid drugs were given three months to comply with new packaging, a nearly unheard of time frame for such a major repackaging effort. Although some packaging was a preliminary option meant to be functionally sufficient until the companies worked out a version that was optimal in terms of cost and appearance, all met the deadline. In fact, the first tamper-evident Tylenol packages were on the shelf by the fifth week after the deaths. All other types of drug products – presumably those less susceptible to poisonous tampering – and all imported drugs were given longer time lines, with all needing to meet tamper evident packaging guidelines by February 1984.

This is an example of rapid change that was permanent. We saw a lot of rapid shifts in the COVID-era and wonder how many are sticky trends. Changes that are most likely to become permanent include those where companies had to make significant investment in the change, where the need for the change remains high, and where there are other reasons to continue the change (e.g., consumer convenience).

Freedonia analyst will continue to watch for historical parallels, market disruptions, and the potential stickiness of industry and consumer change.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, especially coverage in the packaging industry.Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Industry Studies      Packaging    

Sustainability in Power Tools: Improving Circularity With Materials

Sustainability, particularly via reducing use of virgin plastics, is a big part of many companies’ ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) plans and pledges.

Although many companies look at their packaging and processes and stop there, others like Stanley Black & Decker are considering the materials used to make their products. Stanley Black & Decker recently launched its reviva power tool brand, a product line that features tool housing that is made with 50% recycled material. The sustainability move is threefold and considers all stages of the product’s lifecycle:

  • Stanley Black & Decker partnered with Eastman to develop tools with housing made from Eastman’s TritanRenew
  • Each tool is sold in packaging that is designed to be recycled curbside or used as a storage box.
  • The company partnered with TerraCycle to allow its products to be returned for recycling at the end of their useful life.

As The Freedonia Group National Online Consumer Survey conducted in May 2022 found, these moves are incredibly important to consumers. 80% of respondents agreed it is important to recycled everything they can. Additionally, 66% of respondents noted that they actively seek to minimize the amount of unrecyclable waste their household generates. Sustainability actions taken by consumer goods companies can have major impacts as more consumers seek to reduce their household waste and encourage – with their buying patterns – companies to do better with eco-friendly products and measures.

Freedonia analysts continue to watch changes in consumer sentiment in sustainability areas and keep on the lookout for innovations and potential innovations where companies can seize opportunities.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, especially Power Tools, Global Power Tools, and Home Improvement Consumer Insights 2022. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Consumer Goods      Industry Studies