MyKirei is a Japanese personal care brand with a collection of products inspired by the Japanese philosophy of Kirei, which promotes living a life of balance, cleanliness, order, simplicity, well-being and sustainability.

The brand’s packaging represents the first practical use of the Air in Film Bottle technology developed by Kao. The film is a flexible material used in refill packs such as Kao’s Raku-raku Eco Pack. Inserting air on the outer layer of the film packaging expands the packaging so that it can stand on its own and be used as a bottle. This can reduce the use of plastic by approximately 50% compared with pump-type bottles. Kao offers a line of refill packs to encourage the repeated use of pumps. The Air in Film Bottle packaging also makes it easier to use up all of the liquid contents compared with traditional plastic bottles. Kao plans to offer a wider selection of products that allow consumers to participate in the Kirei Lifestyle.

Flexible Packaging spoke to Yoshinori Inagawa, general manager of packaging technology research, global R&D of Kao Corporation about the packaging for MyKirei.

MyKirei is a combination of beauty and science. Can you explain how both sides are represented?

In today’s society, the beauty of the package should be environmentally compatible with the earth. Therefore, recycling is a premise. But before that, to reduce the amount of plastic used dedicates significant reduction of CO2 emissions. It is also important for consumers to fully use the whole content in a package without leaving residue and not to discharge unused content in the environment. With a rigid bottle, it is impossible to achieve these two things. We made efforts to solve the issues by incorporating an innovative film-type package. We looked at a power of air, so that we can make it at a lower cost without using unnecessary devices. The concept using film and air came out here. An air-assisted film-type packaging has a stable self-standing capability even if the liquid content is consumed to the last drop. Then, we adopted an inner bag inside a film-type bottle, which works to pull itself inward along with the liquid content being consumed. This feature also means that it does not take in any water or air to an inner bag. It is a unique package that has never been used in the sense of hygiene. In addition, the package has a spout with a screw portion. Although this makes a slight increase of plastics usage, we decided to make a package having improved usability and better productivity. It also enables a package to be easy to handle like a regular rigid bottle, such as incorporating a pump dispenser, as well as fully utilizing a high-speed neck transporting system at a filling line.

We also explain the beauty of this package from its design. This film-type package, so called “Air in Film Bottle (AFB),” incorporates air circuits, which are the features of AFB, and brings a new launch impact and futuristic sense to consumers. In addition, the package has a three-layer structure. By applying multiple printed layers, it gives a sense of depth. When the remaining liquid content is getting lower, an inner bag is being deflated. Consumers can visually understand, and this is an incredibly unique feature.

How long did the process take?

It took about six to seven years for commercialization. We started to make a packaging concept in 2013 and made an initial prototype product in 2014.

What was the biggest challenge you faced?

We decided to make a tough and resilient liquid package by utilizing a plastic film and air. The most challenging parts are how to form reliable air circuit which has a good bonding force and a good heat seal strength to each layer of film structure. A right circuit design which ensures stable self-standing capability as a liquid package was challenging, as well. While achieving goal properties for “Air in Film Bottle,” we had to ensure an air leak-free feature from the air circuit. We also had to take into consideration to achieving efficient productivity upon commercialization.

How was that challenge solved?

We have accumulated film packaging design capability and production technologies over the past years. Based on this, we learned through trial and error and have finally achieved successful commercialization of this innovative packaging.

The first phase of MyKirei product release features shampoo, conditioner and hand wash. The three new products are available exclusively on Amazon. As of May 18 the 10.1 ounce sustainable bottle shampoo is sold out.