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State of Packaging 2011

Lisa Doyle
  • Nick Carafa, executive vice president of sales, Packaging Graphics LLC
  • Steve Rusch, director of marketing, Anomatic
  • Sandra Hutson, sales and marketing director, Topline
  • Marny Bielefeldt, marketing manager, Alpha Packaging
  • Patrick McGee, director of marketing, HLP Klearfold
  • Nathalie Nowak, director of marketing and innovation, Rexam Personal Care Division
  • Doug Jackson, marketing manager, Albéa North America

GCI: As consumers have adopted a “back to basics” mindset with the economic downturn, what has the impact been on your packaging in terms of development and design?

Carafa: Typically during an economic downturn, consumers turn to less expensive, single-pack items instead of multipacks that are found in the big box stores such as BJ’s, Costco and Sam’s Club. As a result, our customers want to redesign their single-pack products, which turn over at a much quicker rate. Also, eye-catching designs incorporating high-contrast coatings or foils are more prevalent now than before.

Rusch: Overall, product differentiation is as popular and widespread as ever. Many of our customers want to drive shelf appeal of their products through the use of custom colors, shapes and secondary operations. We’re discovering the use of anodized aluminum is increasing along with customization to ensure products stand out on shelves.

Hutson: With the economic downturn, the consumer looks for the added value that a product can provide. There are many ways that packaging design can address this consumer need, and Topline’s added-value solutions include multifunctional packaging concepts that create a spa/salon experience at home.

Bielefeldt: Even though consumers have gone “back to basics” in many areas of their lives, we have not seen a substantial impact on the number of custom bottles and jars we’re asked to develop. In fact, our in-house design and development team has been busier than ever this year, and we see that pace continuing well into 2012.

McGee: To lure consumers away from premium retail outlets and to maximize their share of consumer spending, beauty marketers continue to introduce masstige product offerings. It is critical to the success of these products that the packaging used supports the product’s premium positioning and serves to differentiate them on the crowded shelves of mass retail outlets. Our well-executed plastic folding cartons showcase products beautifully, cut through the clutter of crowded retail shelves, provide a value-added consumer perception and have a proven record of enhancing brand performance.

Nowak: The consumer—even with a “back-to-basics” mindset—is more savvy than ever before and will not choose packaging that appears substandard in any way, or that does not function properly or feel right. Whether prestige, masstige or direct seller, the packaging has to communicate the worth of that product and provide enjoyment and a certain fun factor. It is up to us to develop solutions that work for consumers in all categories, that deliver in terms of functionality and ergonomics, and have that X factor that makes each usage a special, delightful little interlude.

Jackson: Albéa is focusing its efforts in developing packaging with a real added value—smart applicators, practicality—and proposing systematic eco-design solutions, such as lighter weight, alternative material and less waste in the distribution.

GCI: How will packaging, as a critical component of a marketing mix, continue to evolve?

Carafa: Packaging is at its most robust stage during the product’s introductory launch stage, utilizing high-end print characteristics such as foils and coatings to catch the consumer’s attention. As the product matures and declines, those high-end foils can be replaced by metallic inks, which can give it a similar look but at a lower cost.

Rusch: Packaging will consistently reinvent itself as a trendsetter. Sustainability will evolve and become a best practice, and [brand owners] will continue to seek the most innovative, eye-catching packaging to answer consumer demand.

Hutson: In a crowded marketplace, secondary packaging can be the key point differentiation. Instructional elements to the primary and secondary packaging and even in-store displays are important to communicate the value proposition or positioning of the product, and how it can be used in conjunction with other products in a line.

Bielefeldt: As consumers express the desire to eliminate unnecessary packaging components, the primary package—in Alpha’s case, the bottle or jar that holds the product—will become more important from both a visual and a functional perspective. And for [beauty] companies who choose to make sustainability an element of their marketing message, they will need to identify packaging that helps them achieve sustainability at all levels of the brand.

Nowak: Consumers are still cautious and seek value for their hard-earned money, and [brand owners] expect a return for their investment in packaging. So it is up to the packaging supplier to innovate ways of developing cost-effective materials, technologies and features that excite and delight consumers, protect advanced formulations, communicate brand essence, and still deliver ROI for our customers.

Jackson: At Albéa, we have identified these types of evolution in packaging: make the product use easier for the consumer; create less waste when using (control distribution systems); nomadism in line with the consumer’s on-the-go way of life; and eco-design for a product with a reduced impact on environment.

GCI: How have emerging markets impacted packaging design or offerings?

Carafa: Given the saturation levels in the U.S., emerging markets have been a primary focus for several of our major customers. Although we usually do not produce packaging for the emerging markets, we have been told that a more simple and inexpensive package type is desired due to the economic conditions in those markets.

Rusch: Consumers with more resources around the world are driving demand. This includes the markets in Brazil, India and China. As a direct result of global demand, Anomatic is currently building a new anodizing facility, increasing its North American capacity by 50%. Innovative technologies such as double anodizing and laser engraving will be offered from Anomatic’s global facilities, as well.

Hutson: Emerging markets such as Asia have made it possible for companies to offer more affordable packaging solutions while still maintaining attention to quality.

Nowak: Emerging markets are indeed very dynamic, although not every so-called emerging market is at the same level. In India, for example, personal care products such as those for shower, shampoo and body care are growing, whereas Brazil’s consumers are already purchasing more sophisticated and luxury products. We at Rexam Personal Care need to answer this variance by offering different packaging solutions that answer specific, localized customer needs. In Brazil, our Jundiai production site produces makeup packaging, lipsticks, cases for face and eyes, deodorants, and fragrance pumps to support major customers such as Natura, O Boticario and Yambal, and we continue to invest in Brazil and throughout Latin America.

Jackson: Emerging markets bring new ideas for packaging because of different cultural habits in terms of use and target price. They enrich our vision of packaging and make us think on how we can adapt our packaging to these specific markets. Albéa organizes local workshops to identify local consumers’ needs.

GCI: Which consumer demands or expectations do you anticipate to continue to impact packaging?

Carafa: Due to sustainability initiatives, many consumers are looking for a package that is more than just a package. They want it to have a secondary use, such as storage for the product after it is opened. The battery market, for example, has embraced this initiative with reclosable battery packages.

Rusch: The industry is pushing for shorter lead times and faster speed to market. The need for innovation is also a key issue that we continue to hear from our customer base. We continue to hold innovation at the forefront of manufacturing overall and develop processes that continually push the category forward; double anodizing is a great example of innovation in packaging.

Hutson: There is a new trend emerging as consumers now also want to recharge and slow down, which will impact packaging design. This trend will result in the launch of products and packaging concepts that allow the customer to pause, take her time, and enjoy the full product experience.

Many consumers will also crave an escape from normality to a fantasy world, generating the interest in more extraordinary and far-out designs and packaging concepts. These futuristic packaging designs—using technologies such as rapid prototyping and special finishes, for example—will be needed to satisfy the desire for unusual and offbeat concepts.

Bielefeldt: Sustainability will continue to impact new packaging materials and packaging styles as brands try to add value or connect more closely with consumers who are concerned about the environment. Many consumers are very committed to recycling in their personal lives and react very favorably to companies that are making an effort to utilize the recycled materials in their packaging.

Nowak: At Rexam, we have identified five key marketplace trends and their impact. First, there is “nomadism,” which refers to our on-the-go lifestyle. Smaller, easier-to-transport packages will result. Secondly, emerging markets and economic factors will impact the importance of local sourcing and the need for supply flexibility. Thirdly, the growing trend of “premiumization” will be evidenced by such changes as greater use of metals versus plastics, enhanced decoration, surface treatments and accessories. Fourth, sustainability issues will foster growth in eco-friendly designs and materials and interest in reusable materials and recyclability. Lastly, health and youth preservation will result in demand for airless packaging, greater mechanical support for softer formulations, anti-UV packaging, increased use of foaming soaps to prevent viruses, and senior-friendly packaging.

Jackson: In the past decade, packaging has evolved from being considered only as a container to becoming a valuable applicator, enhancing formulas. This trend will continue in the next year with the objective to bring more and more professional use and desired results at home.

More of this Q&A with some of the beauty industry’s top packaging suppliers—discussing packaging’s impact on purchasing decisions, the right way to respond to a trend and further trends for 2012—is available here.

Lisa Doyle was formerly the associate editor of GCI magazine and is a freelance writer in the Chicago area. Her work has appeared in Skin Inc. magazine, Salon Today, America’s Best, Renew and Modern Salon.

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Packaging’s Impact on Purchasing Decisions; Responding to a Trend

GCI: How does packaging influence purchasing behavior?

Carafa: Studies have indicated that consumers buy products for the first time with high visually appealing graphics instead of those with bland packaging. However, once a consumer has developed loyalty to a product, packaging becomes less of a factor in the purchasing decision. Companies are now employing tactics such as high-contrast packaging, foil packaging and packages that have a unique feel or scent to win a brief opportunity on the store shelf.

Rusch: It’s all about shelf appeal. Because consumers so closely relate themselves to the brands and the packaging they purchase, the cosmetics and personal care industry is invested in innovative packaging that is fashionable and forward-driven, consistently challenging itself to reinvent the trends. Being so fashion-oriented, things change and consumers are constantly looking for something that is new and innovative. This is what pushes packaging to drive trends.

Hutson: Consumers make subconscious decisions regarding packaging based on the way it feels or functions. If a package feels uncomfortable to handle or use, a consumer may subconsciously build a negative impression of the package no matter how well the formula performs. Attention to detail and the way a consumer holds and uses a package are paramount criteria for a successful design. Bielefeldt: If you have two, identical products on the shelf at similar price points, but one is offered in an attractive package with a convenient dispensing closure, and the other one is offered in a plain-looking package with a less convenient dispensing method, consumers are going to choose the package that looks better and makes it easier to use the product inside.

McGee: Visual impressions are always important to selling image but are especially important when selling cosmetic and beauty products, where image is often key to a brand’s success. As a result, beauty product marketers spend a great deal of time and money developing primary packaging that support their brand image and product positioning and that evoke emotional responses from consumers. With clear or visual secondary packaging, ties to those prestige primary packages are maintained and can be enhanced with well-designed, exciting visual packaging products. A 3-D view of the product or primary package itself is much more impactful than a printed image. Nowak: There are many different consumer drivers. Sometimes it’s “the look.” Sometimes it’s the practicality and functionality—perhaps a gesture that appeals to the consumer. Sometimes it’s simply the effective communication of the brand’s attributes, which makes the end-user feel special with every usage. Either way, the best packaging solutions build brands, deliver ROI and help beat the competition.

Jackson: Seventy-four percent of consumers say that packaging is critical to make their final selection, and that’s why brands naturally come to us to find a way to differentiate. They know that packaging is a key asset to reflect the brand image and stand out on the shelf. Packaging allows personalization of the product, but also brings a real added value when formulas are most of the time equivalent in terms of quality.

GCI: Regarding packaging, what traps can brand owners fall into if they respond to the wrong trend—or if they respond to the right trend in the wrong way?

Hutson: Consumers are more and more savvy these days and know what they want—they will not buy a product if it does not fulfill their need or they may buy once but will not buy again. Consumers are also checking the Internet to see if a product really performs as advertised by scanning user reviews and blogs. Poorly designed products or poorly performing products will gain a bad reputation. This can result in stockpiles of products that just don’t sell or sell too slowly for retailers to justify keeping it on the shelves, leading to expensive inventory issues and returns for brand owners.

Bielefeldt: Perhaps the biggest risk that brand owners face is investing in a new graphic identity or structural package design that does not address the needs or preferences of their target market. For example, a hair care company with a young customer base may try to introduce a retro-inspired brand identity that is unfamiliar to its target audience, and the packaging ends up looking old-fashioned instead of cool. At Alpha, we offer a lot of package development options that help big companies develop custom packaging in relatively small volumes, and at a cost much lower than large-volume tooling, so they can test a product line with much less risk. Then, as volumes increase, we can scale up and grow with their needs.

Jackson: As with most trends, timing is everything. Be in front, take some risks, look carefully at the packaging companies and evaluate their innovations. Some will fit the brand perfectly. The message is to keep in tune with innovation and the packaging business, which focuses on innovation, before it gets to a stock offer.

GCI: Which packaging trends are ones to watch in 2012?

Carafa: Given the public’s growing awareness of various environmental issues, sustainability continues to be high on the list. Studies have shown that consumers are willing to pay more for products and packages that are environmentally friendly. As a result, biodegradability and packages that minimize their carbon footprint should be explored and implemented when feasible.

Rusch: Throughout 2011, there has certainly been an upgrade in packaging. Premiumization is a hot topic and we have had a lot of interest in upgrading packaging by adding metal. As more consumers become aware of the advantages of anodized packaging not only in design characteristics but also its environmental properties, we anticipate the trend of replacing lacquering and metalizing with anodizing to continue. It’s worth noting, anodized aluminum is infinitely recyclable and approximately 45% of the products manufactured at Anomatic contain at least 80% recycled content.

Hutson: 3-D architecturally structured designs that combine fantasy and reality, sustainability, customization, and multi-sensorial, microsized products are strong trends to watch for 2012.There will also be a return to handcrafted techniques and more “authentic” designs.

Bielefeldt: Custom colors for stock packaging styles are one of the trends we’ve been noticing at Alpha Packaging. Through the first six months on 2011, we have already had as many custom colors approved by brand owners as we had through all of 2010, and the color palettes we’ve seen in 2011 include a lot of purples, yellows, deep oranges and beiges. Metallic or pearlized custom colors have also been a popular trend.

McGee: We see a renewed interest in the use of secondary packaging of non-traditional geometries: something other than a six-sided box. Our InSight packages combines printed and scored plastic sleeves with injection-molded end caps to form a very distinctive visual package. They are essentially tubes where the end caps’ shape determines the packages’ overall shape. In addition to the distinctive “cat’s eye” or “pillow pack” profile used by Olay and others, InSight is available in oval, round, rectangular and many other profiles.

Nowak: We can anticipate greater use of mini-product programs, for new launches, established brands and in emerging markets. Second, the heightened appeal of true airless systems, to protect advanced and hybrid formulations. Third, the combination of eco-consciousness and cost pressures will gradually reduce the appeal of secondary packaging and heighten the demand for innovative primary packaging that delivers ROI and communicates key brand attributes.

Jackson: There are three main trends to watch in 2012: providing more professional tools adapted to the consumer use; eco-design will stay a major work line because consumers are more and more mindful about packaging consumption and brands are ready to take concrete actions to reduce the environmental impact of their products; and nomadism, because consumers are always on the go and they need packaging adapted to their way of life. The goal is to allow the consumer to use every packaging in any circumstances.

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