Creating visual appeal

The personal care segment of the aerosol market is the most dominant, and consumer interaction with these types of cans are arguably more ‘intimate’ Image: Shutterstock

The aerosol can market, driven by factors such as convenience and sustainability, particularly in the personal care sector, presents a dynamic landscape for metal decoration. Alex Rivers reports, and speaks with INX International’s Alex Folloso about the opportunities and challenges involved


With booming product categories worldwide, including personal care, household products, industrial applications and automotive, the aerosol can market continues to grow rapidly.

As also reflected in the British Aerosol Manufacturers Association’s 2023 aerosol filling figures, personal care is the category that continues to dominate worldwide. According to Research and Markets, the global aerosol market is expected to be driven by factors such as convenience, ease of use, and eco-friendliness. The market is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 5.2 per cent during the forecast period of 2023 to 2031.

For companies distributing aerosol products, and brands wanting to distinguish themselves as the most prominent on the shelves, appearance is just as important as the sustainability of the container and can make or break a packaging’s success. As can making awards consistently show – such as Aerobal’s World Aluminium Aerosol Can Award; the ADF Innovation Award; CanTech’s Can Awards and many others – appearance is a winning factor.

At the heart of it all is the consumer experience. In the case of a personal care aerosol can, arguably the consumer’s interaction with it is more intimate than, say, a beverage or food can. It is kept in the house for longer period of time before recycling, and will be located in the more private areas of the house, such as the bathroom or bedroom. It will also sometimes be taken with the consumer on their travels. Brand managers must be sensitive to these considerations, and provide a packaging that appeals to the senses and reflects the brand’s philosophy, while also offering a can that is attractive, unique and special.

Making the choice

There are many ways to customise and enhance the can’s visual appearance. Metal decorating options available to can makers include but are not limited to:  thermochromic  inks  (where  temperature denotes a colour-change on the can); pearlescent effects; glow-in-the-dark inks; and tactile finishes.

One of the specialists in this space is INX International Ink Co, which represents the third largest producer of inks in North America, with full- service subsidiaries in Europe and South America.

Alex Folloso, director of metal decorating technology at INX International Ink Co, spoke to CanTech International about the company’s aerosol packaging inks, and the primary considerations when formulating them.

“Aerosol cans are currently produced using three can making methods: from flat-sheet, metal printed with lithographic inks; impact extruded metal printed with dry offset inks; and laminated steel printed with formulated dry offset inks.

“With the flat sheet metal process, INXCure TP UV curable or TP Thermal curable inks are used, depending on the can maker’s cure capabilities. In the impact extruded metal process, steel cans are printed with INX MDO thermal cure inks. AP Aerosol inks are thermally curable inks specially formulated to withstand the laminated steel process for making aerosol cans.”

“The ink product used is dictated by the aerosol can maker’s process,” Folloso continued. “Ink raw materials are chosen that will maintain the can’s integrity throughout its lifetime. For example, the flat sheet metal process inks will be exposed to temperatures as high as 500°F (260°C). Therefore, a heat resistant pigment must be considered. Inks also must be formulated by taking into account the latest regulatory requirements.”


However, Folloso stated that regulatory requirements are not the main issue for developing speciality inks for aerosol cans. “If a substance does not meet a regulation, the ink formulator tries to replace it while not letting its performance suffer,” he said.

“The main challenge when developing speciality inks is the can making process itself. Metal decorating inks are formulated for lithographic or dry offset print processes. Materials for speciality effects that work within the print process are limited mainly by ink film thickness. Dry ink films are around one micrometre thick.

“Special effects pigments, such as glitter or pearlescent, provide the best effect when their particle size is greater than 10 micrometres. To put ink film thickness into perspective, realise that a human hair is typically no less than 17 micrometres thick, so metal decorating dry ink films are basically very thin.”

Collaboration and customer support play crucial roles in the metal decorating sphere, as in any other. Folloso explained how INX supports its customers for technical assistance, troubleshooting and  product  customisation  for  their  specific requirements: “At the customer facility level, INX provides in-plant support. An INX metal deco in-plant will prepare press-ready inks daily to run on each print press. They also provide the first line of defence when print related issues occur.

“If the in-plant needs further support, our technical service group will assess the problem and provide solutions to the customer as quickly as possible. Our metal R&D group collaborates with customers, can maker suppliers and material vendors to formulate new metal decorating ink products.”

Looking ahead

Regarding trends and developments in packaging inks and special effects inks, Folloso commented, “Some can makers are considering a transition from thermal cure to UV curable technologies to reduce energy costs and give themselves more flexibility in their process.

“In terms of industry advancements, the most activity with metal deco ink is continuing to comply with global regulatory requirements. There is also more activity taking place in the UV curable space,” Folloso concluded.

According to the Research and Markets report previously mentioned, the emerging economies of Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and Africa have witnessed a significant increase in demand for aerosol cans, due to increasing urbanisation and rising disposable income. Research and Markets also notes that the personal care industry is a significant end-use industry for aerosol cans in these regions, with the increasing adoption of Western lifestyles driving the demand for personal care products.

Without a doubt, the metal decorating sector is poised to meet this demand, in a marketplace where appearance, sustainability, and consumer experience converge.

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