The Power of Packaging

November 14, 2005

Powerful new packaging can boost sales even in an economic downturn.

Three cheers for the little guys! While many of the major players in cosmetics and toiletries sit on the sidelines and wait for an economic recovery, small personal care manufacturers continue to roll out products based on unique concepts, formulated with novel materials and packaged in interesting new shapes. As a result, many of these smaller firms are reinvigorating the cosmetics and personal care segment with new ideas. More often than not these products are aimed at the growing teen and tween market.

“There has been no slowdown of orders from new or small companies,” noted Lou Della Pesca of 3C, Hawthorne, NJ. “The major companies are postponing introductions.”

But according to Mr. Della Pesca and other industry suppliers, very few companies are taking design risks these days.

“A great many of the risks—or innovations, as successful risks tend to be called—are emerging from some of the newer or smaller companies that perceive opportunities to gain market share via differential packaging,” said Elisha Tropper of Prestige Label, Brooklyn, NY.

He noted that during the past couple of years, there has been a sharp reduction in the costs of high quality custom packaging due to technological enhancements (such as digital printing). “As a result, even the smallest manufacturer or marketer can effectively engage in the most creative of label and packaging design activities despite a lack of the economies of scale that were required to economically justify these innovations just a few short years ago,” he said.

That’s not to say that larger companies are giving up the ship when it comes to innovation. In fact, Len Kulka of Clariant Masterbatches, McHenry, IL, argued that the number of design risks is the same as in past years.

“The difference is they are now segregated into different areas. Designers are focusing on different components of the packaging, not just the color. It is a more sophisticated and intricate process,” he pointed out.

According to Mr. Kulka, just a single element of the package, such as a trim piece, cap or pump, can be the focal point of risk. As a result, changing a single component can breathe new life into an existing brand.

Tweens want fun cosmetics that don’t look like their mothers’ cosmetics. Packaging companies such as Arrowpak are more than happy to oblige them.

“For new containers, color is now part of a whole design from the ground up. Designers are spending time making sure the container shape, color and trim all contribute to the final product. In the past, the design process happened aside from the color choice. Now they are linked from the beginning. As a result, there is still risk taking, but it is in a different form.”

Who are the Risk Takers?
When it comes to taking risks, no age group outdoes teens. In their efforts to fit in, teens will go way out when it comes to the music they listen to, the clothes they wear and the personal care products they use. As a result, many of the most dynamic packaging ideas are aimed at teens.

“The youth, tween and teen market continues to evolve,” observed Jim Slowey of Arrowpak, Richmond Hill, NY. “The need for a constant new supply of products with innovation and style will keep designers busy for some time. The object is also to create the items that will progress with the younger consumers as they grow from the glitter and neon into the more subtle shades and products.”

At the same time, however, Mr. Slowey told Happi that the segment that shows the most promise is the men’s market. “This area of packaging can rely more on stock items, using the tremendous array of decorating capabilities to give the product line its own individuality,” he said.

Clariant Masterbatches’ unique polymers can put a sparkle into any sun care line.

Still other suppliers insist that aging baby boomers and their obsession with looking young continues to propel packaging design forward. “The senior care products market is a rapidly growing segment due to the aging of the baby boomers,” observed Mr. Tropper.

He pointed out that innovation does not necessarily mean radical redesign. “It can also mean simple adjustments, such as slightly more ergonomic bottle shapes, easier to read graphics and instructions, and finding better ways to explain the benefits and differences of a product,” he added.

What’s New?
Whether a marketer chooses a complete package overhaul or prefers to tinker with a component or two, suppliers to the personal care industry provide a wide range of new containers, labels and dispensers. A variety of new ideas are rolling out of 3C these days. The company has expanded the design and size presentation of its airless type bottle. And its new clear base jars with color added to the inside cavity wall, creates a clear “Lucite look” with the addition of color, according to Mr. Della Pesca.

Custom Bottle/Lerman Container provides packaging solutions for a wide range of consumer product categories.

The DaVinci compact is billed as the first compact with a two-layer cover that enables cosmetics companies to change the presentation of their packaging at no additional cost.

The automatic lip brush is an all-metal push button lip brush. Just push the button and out comes a fine sable hair brush; push the button again and the brush retracts into the handle.

3C’s newly-designed Bell pots feature a curved base with a screw on a double injection-molded one-piece lid that offers marketers a lens-type cover without the additional cost. The pots are available in 36- and 59mm sizes. Also from 3C is the Elegance line of newly-designed bottles and jars. The reverse-tapered bottle has a standard 24/415 neck size.

The clear Lucite type reverse tapered jar has a mushroom-style cap. Finally, 3C has introduced a new line of metal (aluminum) mascara/lip gloss container and a new line of metal lipstick cases.

According to Mr. Tropper, Prestige has taken high-definition flexographic printing of labels and flexible packaging to the next level with the introduction of digital platemaking and advanced graphics management. This computer-to-plate technology offers enhanced color and dot gain management along with the ability to register multiple colors tighter than ever, including gradient screens.

“We can achieve true vignettes of even those types of artwork, such as skin tones and wood grains, which have traditionally been so difficult to replicate in high-speed print processes,” explained Mr. Tropper. “When you combine these new capabilities with the established core benefits of in-line rotary screen printing and foil stamping, unbelievable eye-catching graphics are now within reach of just about every size company.”

When combined with new six- and seven-color process technologies, digital high-definition flexographic printing results in a significantly crisper, more vivid image without an increase in cost, according to Mr. Tropper. “Already, we have seen several major consumer products companies switch their production from higher-cost gravure and offset processes to HD-Flexo in order to reduce their costs without sacrificing image quality.”

Tough Materials
Eastman’s copolyesters are valued by cosmetics companies for their water clarity, toughness and chemical resistance. Another competitive advantage is that they have the ability to mold thick-walled containers. “For brand owners looking to move away from glass packaging and yet offer a package that conveys luxury, they are choosing copolyesters from Eastman because of our ability to mold thick walls and provide a package that looks and feels like glass,” said Mr. Clubb.

As a result, Eastman copolyesters have been used in several launches where brand owners are looking for a container that has thick walls and yet maintains water clarity. Merle Norman has just introduced their Luxiva Timeless Age Defying Makeup in Eastman’s copolyester which, when placed alongside a glass package, one cannot tell the difference.

In Europe, Eastman’s materials are part of Yves St Laurent’s Nu eau de toilette (aesthetics), Ginvenchy’s Pour Homme (aesthetics), Van Cleef’s Murmure (aesthetics), Gucci’s eau de parfum (mechanical) and Versace’s Jeans Couture (aesthetics).

On the lip care side Eastman is involved with Revlon’s Moistures as well as some additional lipstick buttons that will debut later this year.

Nearly every week, a new line of cosmetics, hair care products or fragrances debut from entrepreneurs eager to get their start in the personal care industry. But coming up with a concept is often the easiest part of the equation. To find a bottle, formula or dispenser, they’re looking on the internet.

“People are still inspired a lot by the internet these days. Now it seems so easy to start a whole business by just getting online,” explained Kate Harrington of Custom Bottle Inc./Lerman Container Company, Naugatuck, CT.

To meet the needs of startups and established players alike, the company has launched www.ebottles.com, where it sells packaging by the case.

“The response has been overwhelming,” Ms. Harrington told Happi. “So much so that we are constantly adding new items to the site.”

What’s Ahead?
These days, it’s nearly impossible to predict which way the global economy is headed. After all, just when all signs pointed toward recession in the U.S., companies started reporting positive results for the first quarter. Similarly, just when the euro looked dead, it came back with a vengeance and is now one of the strongest currencies on the planet.

So what effect will the global economy have on the personal care sector? After, all, the segment has always been considered recession-resistant. “Some companies are looking for a stock package to bring their new products to market, while saving the money on private designs,” observed Mr. Slowey. “The majority, however, are relying on the individuality and innovation that a private design will bring. There may be a delay in the launch date by some companies but new products are still being developed and introduced.”

And as long as marketers are willing to take a risk with a new lotion, lipstick or eyeshadow, there’s a supplier out there with an innovative packaging concept.

Looking for a supplier of packaging components? A list of them starts on p. 98 in the print version of Happi.