Why Are Blister Packs So Hard to Open?

First Published: August 20, 2023

The difficulty in opening some plastic blister packs (often referred to as “clamshell packaging”) is a common frustration for many consumers – I’ve encountered it many times.

There are a variety of reasons why these packages can be so challenging to open:

  1. Theft Prevention: One of the primary reasons that manufacturers use hard-to-open blister packs is to deter theft. The bulky, rigid design makes it more difficult for potential shoplifters to quickly and discreetly remove the product from its packaging. Opening the package without drawing attention or making noticeable noise is also challenging.
  2. Tamper Evidence: Similar to theft prevention, hard-to-open packaging indicates if a product has been tampered with. If the package shows signs of forced entry, consumers will know the product inside might have been compromised.
  3. Product Protection: The rigid plastic used in these types of packages offers a high level of protection for the product inside, safeguarding it from damage during shipping, handling, and display. For some fragile or valuable items, this can be an essential feature.
  4. Visibility: Blister packs and clamshell packaging allow consumers to see the product inside, which can be an advantage in retail settings. This clear visibility can make the product more appealing to potential buyers.
  5. Durability and Long Shelf Life: Plastic is resistant to various environmental factors, such as humidity and temperature, which makes it suitable for products that might stay on store shelves for extended periods.
  6. Economic Production: Once the initial mold is produced, plastic blister packs can be manufactured at scale relatively inexpensively. This makes them a cost-effective choice for many businesses.

However, while there are clear benefits to manufacturers and retailers in using this type of packaging, the consumer experience can often be overlooked or deprioritized. The very features that deter theft and protect the product can also make it a struggle for legitimate consumers to access their purchases.

Over the years, there have been pushes in the packaging industry to develop designs that maintain security and visibility benefits but are more user-friendly. Some companies have made strides in this direction by introducing perforated lines, easier-to-grip tabs, or other design elements that make opening the package more straightforward.

What Could Designers Do to Make These Easier to Open?

  • Use a thinner and more flexible plastic. This will make the package easier to pry apart, but it will still be strong enough to protect the product inside.
  • Round the edges of the plastic. This will make the package less likely to cause cuts and scrapes – Yeah, I’ve been cut many times.
  • Use a tamper-evident strip that is easier to break. This will still deter theft, but it will be less frustrating for consumers to open.
  • Provide a tab or other easy-to-use opening mechanism. This will make it easier for consumers to open the package without damaging it.
  • Use a child-resistant design that is still easy for adults to open. This can be done by using a combination of features, such as a tamper-evident strip and a small opening mechanism.

What do you think? Do you hate this kind of packaging as well?

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