But shelf space has moved beyond brick and mortar. According to recent research from Mintel, 35% of Millennial women claim to buy most of their beauty products online. Today’s consumers are just as likely to encounter a beauty brand on their smartphone or tablet as they shop online and scroll through their social media feed of choice—and that is having an impact on how brands approach their packaging.
“Social media is having an enormous influence on packaging decisions,” Karen Young of The Young Group told Happi. “When I’m working with clients, the package selection conversation is very dominated by how the package will look on a laptop or phone screen. Is it compelling? Can a consumer tell what it is?”
As e-commerce grows, brands must explore both the opportunities and threats that it can bring, as the shift from in-store to in-home shopping becomes a core part of the packaging design conversation, contends David Luttenberger. The global packaging director at Mintel has had similar conversations with brands around what he calls the “ecommerce challenge.”
In addition, those discussions now go further down the line to how a customer should feel when he or she first encounters the box and opens it at home. If that sounds crazy, do a quick search on YouTube for unboxing and beauty box… it’s a thing. In fact, brands are reportedly reaching out to social influencers such as Bunny Meyer (aka grav3yardgirl), who has more than 7 million YouTube followers, to conduct unboxing trials.
Mintel points to a few key trends that are impacting the global packaging market overall:
- The (re) union of package structure and branding. The time is now for brands to roll out unique packaging structures that not only differentiate on shelf, but also help form and support brand identity...
- The face and role of packaging online. As e-commerce grows, brands must explore both the opportunities and threats that this can bring, as the shift from in-store to in-home shopping becomes a core part of the packaging design conversation and brief...
- Packaging gets smart, active and intelligent. While there is a lack of standardized definitions for smart, active, intelligent, and even mobile-enabled packaging, there are still clear and measurable connections with consumers.
- The experience of packaging. Packaging design has become dominated by the need for brand recognition and variant identification and information. Consumers are increasingly looking for brands to entertain and engage them.
The Eco Undercurrent
One of those expectations is the environment. Consumer concern about a company’s environmental footprint has been shaping package decision-making for years. But nowadays, greener packaging and processes are expected.
“It should be business as usual rather than an unusual way to do business,” said Luttenberger. “Consumers expect that you are doing the right thing.”
Brands are doing just that—and are many are pushing further so the packaging they produce and place into the economy can have even less impact on the Earth.
“Our approach is looking at best material options with the least negative impact to the environment,” said Gary Calicdan, ethical buyer at Lush. “With post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials being half the energy required to produce, we try to make sure we use recycled materials in our packaging whenever possible. We also consider the after-use aspect of our packaging, making sure it is highly recyclable and or biodegradable/compostable. Lush’s goal is to ethically source our raw materials and packaging in the most sustainable way by reducing negative impact while increasing resiliency of our supply chain.”
Lush’s classic black pots are a prime example. These simple vessels recently garnered the company an award from the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) for being the first US FDA rigid packaging application for cosmetics use made from recycled polypropylene (PP).
According to Calicdan, packaging has been a journey.
“We started with using virgin raw materials in our packaging, then moved to recycled contents and now full 100% recycled materials. We have been importing our packaging from the beginning, mostly UK dependent. Over the years, we have been successful in local sourcing and that now includes using recycled materials from US and Canada curbside recycling program. We also reduced the amount of packaging materials by down gauging and re-sizing.”
But hurdles remain in place. “Availability of clean and consistent supply of post-consumer recycled materials continues to be a big challenge in North America,” said Calicdan.
He added that Lush is qualifying more options which includes investing in R&D for new materials, new source and new manufacturers.
“Networking with recycling organizations and packaging professionals helps us to gain more information on trends and developments in packaging,” he added.
Unilever is looking to do more too. The firm last month unveiled details around something called the CreaSolv Process, a technology to recycle sachet waste, which is an issue especially in developing and emerging markets where the small pack size makes purchases more affordable for consumers. According to the CPG giant, hundreds of billions of plastic sachets are tossed away globally, ending up in landfill or as litter.
The CreaSolv Process, developed with the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Germany, has been adapted from a method used to separate brominated flame retardants from waste electrical and electronic equipment polymers. During the process, the plastic is recovered from the sachet and is used to create new sachets for Unilever products, creating a full circular economy approach. Unilever plans to open a pilot plant in Indonesia later this year to test the long-term commercial viability of the technology. To tackle the industry-wide sachet waste issue, Unilever is looking to create a sustainable system change by setting up waste collection schemes to channel the sachets to be recycled. Currently Unilever is testing this by working with local waste banks, governments and retailers and will look to empower waste pickers, integrate them into the mainstream economy and to provide a potential long term income, generating wider growth in the economy, it said.
This latest announcement comes in the wake of Unilever’s pledge to ensure all of its plastic packaging is fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Unilever had already committed to reducing the weight of its packaging by one-third by 2020 and increasing the use of recycled plastic content in its packaging to at least 25% by 2025.
“With this innovative pilot plant we can, for the first time ever, recycle high-value polymers from dirty, post-consumer, multi-layer sachets. Our aim is to prove the economic profitability and environmental benefits of the CreaSolv Process. Our calculations indicate that we are able to recover six kilos of pure polymers with the same energy effort as the production of one kilo of virgin polymer,” Dr. Andreas Mäurer, department head of plastic recycling at the Fraunhofer IVV, said in a press statement.
L’Oréal, too, is looking at what happens to its packaging after purchase—and is targeting a key area where its products live: in consumer’s bathrooms. Knowing that nearly half of Americans do not recycle their beauty and personal care products, accounting for a significant amount of landfill waste, L’Oréal’s Garnier brand and DoSomething.org rolled out “Rinse, Recycle, Repeat,” a national campaign and competition to educate America’s youth about the importance of recycling beauty product empties. Garnier tapped Remi Cruz, a lifestyle personality and YouTuber, to star in a public service announcement about recycling beauty products. Garnier hopes that the campaign will be able to divert a total of 10 million empties from landfills by the end of 2017.
Earlier this year Procter & Gamble announced that its venerable Head & Shoulders brand would provide the world’s first recyclable shampoo bottle made from up to 25% recycled beach plastic through its partnership with TerraCycle and water company Suez. The pack is expected to roll out in France this summer as a limited-edition bottle sold in Carrefour. According to P&G, the move would mark the world’s largest production run of recyclable bottles made with post-consumer recycled (PCR) beach plastic, and a first major step in establishing a unique supply chain that involves the support of both volunteers and NGOs collecting plastic waste found on beaches.
“We felt that the leading shampoo brand in sales should lead in sustainability innovation and know that when we do this, it encourages the entire industry to do the same,” said Lisa Jennings, vice president, Head & Shoulders and global hair care sustainability leader, Procter & Gamble, said when the initiative was announced.
Making a Connection
Aside from being greener, vessels that store and dispense household and personal products must also serve as a beacon that calls attention to a product’s attributes and communicates the brand’s ethos to consumers.
While not for sale in retail, Dove recently produced six differently shaped “Real Beauty” bottles and sent them to social media influencers in 15 different countries. In a statement, the Unilever brand said the custom bottles were designed with the intention of celebrating beauty diversity. In addition, sister Unilever brand Suave recently conducted a social experiment that also provides a reminder of the role the packaging can play in influencing consumers’ feelings toward the product inside. The brand asked beauty bloggers to try a new shampoo called “evaus,” (Suave spelled backwards) repackaged in a white and peach, minimalist bottle. The result: the testers really liked the shampoo and were shocked to find out that it wasn’t a high-end brand, but rather a mass market staple.
According to Luttenberger of Mintel, companies need to make one of three emotional connections with consumer through their packaging: practical, rational or irrational.
From a practicality standpoint, consumers demand functionality, especially products that fit their lifestyles.
For example, Young told Happi that she is on a quest to find stick versions of all of her personal care products.
“I travel a great deal and sticks don’t have to go in the TSA plastic bag,” she told Happi, listing a bevy of products that she’s found in this format these days—eye cream, SPF, antiperspirant, moisturizers/balms, foundations and blush.
“The most challenging was cleanser,” Young said, but thanks to K-Beauty, she tracked one down: Su:m 37’s Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick, which is a solid cleanser that contains fermented rose flower extracts.
Add Milk Makeup’s new toner to the “stick” list. The company contends its new Matcha Toner is “world’s first solid toner.” Out this summer, it is formulated with kombucha, witch hazel, matcha green tea and organic cactus elixir.
The Korean beauty phenomenon has brought with it new ingredients but also packaging with that “must-have” irresistible quality that make consumers crave products that are fun. For example, Holika Holika Gudetama Smooth Egg Peeling Gel, which is now stocked at CVS as part of the retailer’s K-Beauty HQ concept, looks like—you guessed it—an egg.
However, Luttenberger and Young both warned about creating a highly unique package just because it is possible.
“It can’t just be a cool-looking package, it has to be packaging at a functional level,” said Young.
“It can’t just be odd or disruptive just to be different,” agreed Luttenberger. “We are seeing that structure has to fit with the brand.”
However, K-Beauty has brought over category-creating packaging and delivery technology, such as the cushion compact heralded by AmorePacific. It has become coveted among US consumers and prompted US-based brands to follow-up with similar offerings. Of course, great design isn’t relegated to the beauty aisle. Just ask a brand like Method; it stepped into the spotlight in the household cleaning category with great designs that made it okay for even a workhorse kitchen cleaner to live on the counter, not under the sink. (In fact, be on the lookout for a new collection from Method and Creative Growth, coming soon).
Even legacy household care brands are stepping up their game. For instance, new Snuggle Scentables is described by Sun Products as the first and only squeezable scent booster, thanks to a bottle that is, well, squeezable. In addition, the package features a scratch and sniff patch that conveys the scent varieties that are available—a critical element in the laundry care category.
Elsewhere, Procter & Gamble has expanded its high-profile Febreze brand with Febreze One, a new air freshener that uses Flairosol sprayer technology to produce an ultra-fine mist without the use of aerosols. The product features refillable containers with sophisticated designs that are topped with a sleek, matte white trigger that’s easy to hold and spray.
Where to Begin
Young contends companies are wise to bring the packaging people into the new product development process from the start. It’s something she sees at start-ups and smaller, more agile brands—and she suggests legacy brands break down the silos in their own corporate structure that prevent this interaction.
“There has to be more collaboration between the chemist and the packager…When it was just an emulsion created in a jar, you did not need to talk to the packaging guy,” she quipped.
The packaging team, insist experts Happi spoke with, have valuable insight that should be tapped during the development process. They have knowledge about materials and technologies that can be deployed to protect highly sensitive ingredients—think antioxidants and botanicals—that today’s consumer demands in her formulation. Or, packaging personnel can offer ideas on new ways to house and dispense products that could be a game changer for a brand.
Luttenberger also suggested that companies put the limited real estate on their packages to good use. For example, he cited the effective use of copy on Paula’s Choice’s PC4Men line. The “Shave” SKU tube, for example, communicates the benefits and functionality of the product in three simple bullet points: gives a close, smooth shave; protects skin from razor burn; rich cream rinses easily—what more would he need to know!
Experts agree that packaging in today’s household and personal care marketplace can never be an afterthought. From dispensing to final decoration, a well-executed package design can give a brand legs.
“The first thing you see is the package,” said Young. “So why wouldn’t you want to get the most mileage out of that?”