New Choices in Packaging

November 9, 2005

Consumer preference and a focus on individuality have broadened packaging options and brough niche marketing to the fore

Welcome to the new millennium: individuality and personal preference have, by all ap-pearances, come into their own at last. The average consumer is no longer quite so average, industry experts say. Individualized treatment of today’s consumer in a variety of categories has prompted the need for cosmetic and personal care manufacturers—and packagers—to produce a greater variety of products than ever before.

But can there be such a thing as too many choices? According to packaging professionals, fewer concrete parameters in virtually all retail markets comes with a price: a higher risk in introducing a new product to the consumer. An unprecedented amount of possibilities for packaging a product have made the term “on-trend” a little hard to define. And niche markets and age- or lifestyle-geared cosmetic and personal care products call for packaging that is equally specific.

According to packaging experts contacted by Happi, one of the primary challenges to meeting the needs of today’s manufacturer is in managing to provide a personalized experience while keeping growing budgets at bay. As much as consumers dislike increased costs, manufacturers are equally leery of escalating prices.

The balancing act required to create an upscale-look and quality package that stays within price limits has affected changes in all aspects of packaging, from the finished containers, dispensers, labels and printing to the machines required to make them.

“This is an era where even the giant consumer companies have had to take a more personalized approach,” commented Elisha Tropper, president, Prestige Label, Brooklyn, NY. “It’s the concept of ‘marketing to one.’ Amazon’s success, for example, is that it caters to every customer it has on a personal level. Amazon knows what you’ve bought, what your interests are and what offers will appeal to you.”

In the personal care industry, marketing to one can be harder to achieve. Despite a mass exodus to the internet and its interactive capabilities, a large portion of the industry is still retail, and point-of-purchase can make or break a potential sale.

In the past, niche marketing was a pricey venture. Smaller runs generally translated to higher price points per finished package, and start-up or local manufacturers took a significant risk in pooling their limited resources into a product that might or might not achieve success in the targeted market.

All that seems to have changed, however. Increased efficiency and the ability to quickly develop and alter stock packaging—or create a new line altogether—have lessened the risks to large manufacturers testing new lines, smaller companies shipping to a limited geographical area and niche markets trying to target a specific cultural group.

“We have 50 years of customer fulfillment under our belts,” said Mr. Tropper, “and we have the knowledge and software to accommodate the changes in today’s market. With e-mail changes and proofing, what once took days now takes hours. The overall result is a much faster turnaround time and the ability for most companies to make the size run they want, without the prohibitive costs they might have encountered in the past.”

World Wide Packaging, Livingston, NJ, is also catering to the diverse styles and preferences of its clients. “World Wide Packaging is committed to offering innovative products with an array of design options,” said Robert Reinhardt, executive vice president of the company. “A custom look is important to many cosmetic and skin care companies. We offer a variety of textures and finishes including foil decorating, silk screening, embossing, debossing and deep-dye stamping, as well as metalizing, anodizing and UV coating.”

Commented Mr. Tropper, “The industry itself has newer ideas; we’re not as bound by the constraints and tradition that previous generations felt. It shows in terms of the types of products people produce, and in the packaging they use as well.”

Clearly Different
Multiple consumer needs have ushered in multiple packaging options, but even in the midst of this abundant market, several trends stand out in packaging, according to industry experts.

“Translucent materials are very popular in general right now,” revealed Luisa Kamelhar, vice president of International operations, Arrowpak Inc., Richmond Hill, NY. “We’re seeing this trend more and more, especially for the teenage market.”

This development hasn’t passed the adult category by, however: transparent and translucent packaging materials seem to follow the trend toward a playful outlook that spans all age groups. Stated Mr. Reinhardt of World Wide Packaging, “The trends in primary cosmetic packaging are constantly changing. There was a time that our clients primarily wanted the clear look; then the shift was toward the natural look. Now, soft transparent colors are emerging as the style in demand.”

The company accommodates such companies as Del Laboratories, Nu Skin, Paula Dorf, Estée Lauder and Victoria’s Secret. Regardless of the company’s size, however, most manufacturers are looking for the same thing: “Manufacturers want packaging with an upscale look without having to spend a lot to achieve it,” confirmed Mr. Reinhardt. Translucent materials—especially plastics—meet the criteria for both remaining in the mainstream and offering affordable options.

A translucent container allows for double-sided labeling, enabling the consumer to read product information on the back while the front retains a crisp, simple and elegant look. “Clear labels on clear bottles give a seamless look,” commented Mr. Tropper of Prestige Label. “One major advantage of clear labeling is that you don’t have to try to match the color inside, so it simplifies things for the manufacturer as well.”

Ms. Kamelhar of Arrowpak pointed out that translucent or clear options are most easily achieved with plastics. “Plastic is great for skin care products; it’s durable and can be kept in the bathroom or on the vanity table, within easy reach,” she observed. “It can be used more for fun, novelty-type packaging and can be shaped in a number of ways, including ovals, squares or rectangles.”

In addition to versatility and visual appeal, plastics can be a good choice in practical applications. Packaging Con-cepts, a Phil Meshberg Company, Boy-nton Beach, FL, utilizes plastics for its containers and delivery systems. “At Packaging Concepts, we’ve attempted to use traditional materials in solving problems for marketers,” pointed out Lou Posner of the company. “One of the biggest concerns we’ve solved recently is clogging. Every package of hair spray, antiperspirant, aerosol paint and spray starch can clog; it’s only a matter of degree.”

To address this problem, the company has added an Anti-Clog feature to its snap-on finger pump. “The first customer to use this newer package was J.B. Williams, for its new men’s hair spray,” revealed Mr. Posner. The line will shortly be available with a screw-cap, as well as an aerosol version, both which will have the Anti-Clog feature.

Of course, for clarity combined with elegance, glass is still the top choice for many cosmetic marketers. “For perfume and color, we basically use glass,” stated Ms. Kamelhar. “They’re also first choice for colognes and nail polishes.” Arrowpak maintains stock designs in both plastic and glass options, including its new Lexus, a line which includes 1-, 2- and 4-oz. glass bottles. The company has also introduced an expanded line of lipsticks, mascara and eye shadow components.

Packaging & Design Associates, Chapel Hill, NC, also uses glass in a range of stock options. Recently the company expanded its Elegance series, a “high end range of glass bottles that is geared toward the natural-trend market,” according to Julie More of the company. She insisted, “The sophisticated style and simplicity of these bottles says ‘pamper yourself with Elegance.’”

Packaging & Design Associates’ El-egance series includes a 250ml glass bottle in a decanter style with a threaded neck finish. “We have found that the larger decanter style bottles have become more popular for packaging bath products, but they tend to be difficult to seal and messy to dispense. This bottle was produced with a threaded neck to solve these problems,” explained Ms. More. “It’s perfect for an upscale bath and body product line.” The bottle is the newest addition to the series, which includes 50-, 100- and 125ml glass bottles with crimp or threaded neck finishes.

What’s Old Is What’s New
Metals, which have existed for centuries in a number of packaging forms, came into their own in the latter part of the 20th century for household and personal care goods. Today metals serve a dual purpose in the personal care industry: as a streamlined option for modern-look containers, and as a glimpse into the past with nostalgia and aromatherapy-type products.

“On metal components, our recent experience is that soft anodized colors coupled with shiny logos are the current trend,” revealed Mr. Reinhardt of World Wide Packaging. He added that a custom look is important: “As a manufacturer of components, we are skilled at molding components from different materials in order to achieve the de-sired effect our customers want.”

Although aluminum and tinplate tend to be more expensive than some other materials, it is still a matter of personal preference, according to Jen-ifer Brady of Brad-Pak Enterprises, Garwood, NJ. “Manufacturers choose aluminum so their package is different in the marketplace,” she observed. “A majority of the products in the marketplace are in either plastic or glass bottles. Our customers are using aluminum packaging to catch the consumer’s eye for shelf presence.”

Dennis Desrochers, vice president of sales and marketing at Risdon-AMS, Waterford, CT, confirmed the new popularity of metals in the personal care market: “Customers such as Revlon, Calvin Klein, Liz Claiborne and Bijan use metals,” he noted. “Metal has a rich, high-quality feel to it; it presents a true, real experience as opposed to plastic.”

Decoration options are also plentiful for aluminum, tinplate and other metals. “You can either label or silk screen aluminum bottles using as many or as lfew colors as you wish,” commented Ms. Brady of Brad-Pak.

However, metals can provide a unique end look by themselves, according to Steven Nussbaum, director of marketing for O. Berk Company, Union, NJ. “Our aluminum is brushed,” he said, “and because it’s seamless, you can decorate around the entire canister. But the interesting thing about brushed aluminum is that you can get some exciting looks with very minimal decoration: for example, by changing the closure. By choosing a black sprayer, a white sprayer or an all-aluminum sprayer, you can achieve three distinct looks.”

Metals offer practical benefits as well. Aluminum, for example, is shatterproof and impervious to light transmission, which alleviates the problem of degradation of the cosmetic product due to light exposure. The material is also lightweight and easy to mold into different forms depending upon the manufacturer’s requirements. “A lot of high-end manufacturers utilize glass,” said Mr. Nussbaum, “but for a different look, they tend toward metals. If you want the luxury look, aluminum is probably one of the more exciting ways to go.”

Looking Fine
The container itself is a primary consideration for cosmetic manufacturers, but what appears on it can have an enormous impact on the consumer. “Decoration can make a critical difference,” opined Ms. Kamelhar. “So we offer both stock component and creative options. Either a soft or matte finish can be applied to caps or pumps, and irridescent colors, which are becoming popular now, can be used on a variety of different surfaces.”

Whatever route the manufacturer chooses, the ultimate goal is to stand out on the shelf. In today’s competitive market, that’s harder to achieve than ever, according to most packaging professionals. However, package, printing and label options have increased to accommodate the need for a stand-out product at a reasonable cost.

According to Elisha Tropper, president of Prestige Label, Brooklyn, NY, labels can make all the difference when jockeying for position among a host of competitors’ products.

“The cosmetic and personal care industries in general are much more label-conscious than most other retail categories,” he said. “They are highly competitive. A label is designed to make a product jump off the shelf.”

He added that the label industry has been fine-tuned to the point that many labelling options are relatively easy on a manufacturer’s budget. In addition, advances in the equipment used to produce labels now enable even smaller manufacturers to compete. “With a digital press, we can do very short runs but produce high-quality labels,” he ex-plained. “Gigantic runs are becoming a thing of the past in this industry, even among the larger companies. Many manufacturers are finding niche products in order to personalize them and make them appealing for different geographic, cultural, gender or age demographics.” Mr. Tropper called this phenomenon “marketing to one,” a concept that is spanning the personal care industry with its focus on a return to individuality.

The company, which has more than 50 years of experience under its belt, is able to accommodate either larger or shorter runs much more quickly than in the past.

Smaller Can Be Better
The fast pace of today’s culture has ushered in another phenomenon in packaging: a shift toward portable products. Increased responsibilities, dates and deadlines both in the home and the workplace require that the consumer’s personal care needs be travel-ready and easily accessible.

“What we’re seeing a lot of lately is smaller-size products,” said Ms. Kamelhar of Arrowpack. “Consumers are looking for something they can drop into their pocketbooks and take along.” As a result, travel-size personal care items are appearing in larger numbers than previously, she said.

Mr. Reinhardt of World Wide Packaging agreed. “The current trend has been toward smaller packages with clean, crisp lines,” he confirmed. Portable products for the cosmetics and personal care industry have appeared in a broad range of applications, with fragrances one of the more popular categories to be offered in smaller sizes.

Risdon-AMS’ Mini-Mist spray, a silk-screened metallic container, is available in silver and gold as well as a range of “jewel-like” colors, according to the company; Banana Republic chose the spray for its Classic EDT scent. And Allure introduced his-and-her tot-able fragrances, Allure Travel Por Homme and Allure To Go, in 15ml and 50ml sprays, respectively. Avon, which will break new ground in August with its first-ever line to be available in stores, offers a highly individualized beauty experience with beComing, a six-category collection. It contains streamlined containers within its lineup. Several of the containers in the Radiant collection are “just the right size lipstick and shade to fit into a mini makeup bag,” according to the company.

And it isn’t only beauty that can be made portable: wellness is portable too, according to several manufacturers. For instance, Sensia’s scented candle travel tins provide instant aromatherapy anywhere one goes, according to company executives.

In the long run, additional options for packaging will be uncovered, while old favorites will be brought back and modified to please a very individualistic public. A daunting challenge—but most packaging manufacturers seem eager to meet it. “Packaging is all about attracting and keeping the customer,” ob-served Mr. Tropper of Prestige Label. “As a manufacturer, your identity is your packaging. Whether it’s the shape of the bottle, the label or any other aspect of the packaging, how you position your product is going to determine how it is going to be received.”

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