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Thinking Outside 'The Box'

By Christine Esposito, Associate Editor | October 21, 2010

Experts discuss innovative and sustainable packaging.

When it comes to innovation, the adage is that you need to think outside the box. Speakers at the “Design Innovations: Working Magic with New Materials” session at HBA Global discussed projects in which they did just that—looked to other industries and markets to inspire their own businesses and create great packaging.

“It is really innovate or die. Any company that is launching a product or has a product at maturity has to reinvent itself over and over again,” said moderator Robert Brands, chief executive officer of Brands and Co., LLC, who moderated the session at the Javits Center.
Jill Tomandl, creative director and vice president of packaging development at Stila Cosmetics, discussed how a change in Stila’s retail environment prompted changes in its packaging. When it moved to an open sell environment, the big issue for this cosmetic company was how it would still teach customers application techniques, a major part of its DNA.

“The solution was to create a compact that was essentially a makeup artist,” Tomandl told the audience. Stila created a compact that featured a lenticular label, booklet and accompanying internal audio recording that provided instructions on how to build the perfect “smoky eye.”

Another challenge CPG firms face is how to reduce packaging and still have enough space to promote a product's unique features.

“There is a constant challenge to have enough space to communicate our message, “ Tomandl said. “Consumers want to know what benefits they get from their products.” To address this issue, Stila has packaging with a QR tag to provide consumers with additional product information.
The Stila expert also highlighted projects in which her firm found inspiration outside the beauty industry. For example, for a holiday promotion, the company created a compact that came pre-packaged with a bow on the outside—and a way the buyer could record a personalized message for the recipient inside—a tool utilized extensively by the greeting card industry.

Also during the HBA session, Nica Lewis, director of consulting at Mintel Beauty Innovation, presented several examples of innovative packaging in the beauty and personal care marketplace. Among them were Guerlain’s Success Future sculpting roll-on mask and Biotherm Homme Force Supreme Firm and Re-sculpt Anti-Age Massage Care, both of which have pushed the rollerball trend further than ever. Guerlain’s product features an elliptic roll-on applicator with a twist and lock function for dispensing while the latter features three massaging rollerballs to benefit the user.

Lewis also touched on future trends in beauty packaging which will help reduce waste, such as use of stand-up pouches—already prolific in the children’s beverage market in the U.S.—for skin care, sun care and hair care products. These packaging is more prevalent in Japan, with Shiseido offering them for two SKUS—Prosynergy Hair and Tsubaki Head Spa shampoo. Other examples include the Couleur Caramel Complexion Enhancer (UK) and Prtty Peaushun Skin Tight Body Lotion (U.S.), Lewis said.

There’s More To Being Green

While a refillable pouch may seem like an easy way to become more eco-friendly, one expert on the HBA panel warned the audience that there can be more to being “green” than a simple switch in packaging or materials. According to Andrew Dent, vice president of materials research at Material ConneXion, athletic shoe giant Puma found this out when embarked on a project to create more sustainable option than its basic red shoebox.

Over a two-year period, Material ConneXion worked with Puma to reduce the environment impact of the product. An early plan was to move to a more sustainable material, such as that of an egg carton. On the surface, it seemed a perfect choice as there was less material and less ink. However, through life cycle analysis (LCA) Puma came to realize that that new option, since it was made mechanically rather than by hand like the current box, had a foot print almost the same as the one it was replacing.

This revelation changed how Dent—an experienced materials researcher—thought about sustainability and materials. Quantification has become critical to the process, according to Dent.

“Our belief about sustainability is that unless you take into account everything, you just don’t know. Just changing to sustainable may not do it,” Dent said. “The LCA is the only way.”

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