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Leading Luxury

Abby Penning
  • Luxury beauty products are constantly working to stay ahead of the curve, including in their packaging offerings. Packaging in luxury should help convey the worth and value of the product inside, and do so with style.
  • Facets such as weight and decoration continue to define luxury beauty packaging, but packaging with added functionality and character are a growing focus.
  • Involving packaging suppliers early in the product development process is a strategy to get the best result for a luxury beauty product’s packaging.

The weight of a smooth, heavy glass fragrance bottle in your hand. The sweep of a soft, full blush brush across your cheekbones. The easy, smooth twist of a rich red lipstick out of the cylindrical tube.

All of these sensations and more can be an inherent part of the beauty routine, subconsciously adding elements of elegance, pampering, luxury and joy to applying beauty products. From twisting the cap off a jarred moisturizer to admiring the sheen of the metallic finish of a mascara tube, packaging adds feeling and experience to beauty. And for luxury beauty products in particular, those feelings and experiences need to be on point to say the right thing and convey the right emotion.

The Feel of Luxury

Often, luxury is where trends begin. Alexander Kwapis, creative director for Fusion Packaging, explains, “Typically, the luxury brands are the first to market. They are the trendsetters. [And] prestige packaging is the same way.” Adds Kwapis’ colleague Jessica Cahalen, marketing manager with Fusion Packaging, “Luxury beauty packaging is held to a different standard than mass packaging, not only by consumers but also, as it should be, by the brands. It is expected that luxury brands offer higher quality products with the most effective formulas in order to justify their higher costs. In order to display their value to consumers who may not be familiar with certain ingredients or formulations, luxury brands require packaging that proves their worth at first sight.”

David Hou, director of marketing and sales, Cospack America Corp., agrees, noting, “Packaging is a great influence on the perceived value of the products, and luxury brands do try to top their competitors in terms of packaging used.”

Along the same lines, Cahalen says, “Luxury brands tend to select packaging that will give their product greater shelf presence along with an eye-catching design. Many times luxury brands will follow the latest fashion trends, dressing their products in the most current colors, finishes and patterns.”

Jim Slowey, vice president of sales and marketing at Baralan USA/Arrowpak, goes even further, saying, “Fashion as a whole dictates a lot of what you see in beauty packaging. Luxury packaging is not afraid to be luxurious again. We see a trend away from minimalist, simple packages and decoration to an almost over the top, more flash, noticeable look.”

Its also about the emotions fashion-forward luxury product can offer. Anisa Telwar, founder and owner of Anisa International, explains that consumers want beauty products that match the feeling they get when they put on a couture dress for when they pull out their compacts or apply their cosmetics. “Luxury is everywhere, and we have to work to figure out the ways to translate that to beautiful product options,” she says.

Trends in Luxury Packaging

“Trending right now in luxe beauty is definitely that off-the-runway look,” says Telwar, explaining that many luxury consumers are looking at beauty packaging as almost another accessory they can coordinate with their fashion. “Materials like metal, jewels, clutch-like products—that’s translating into beauty packaging right now.”

Michael E. Warford, director of sales, ABA Packaging Corp., notes, “The luxury market incorporates a wide range of specialty decorations, but they are generally paired with more heavyweight products. The dominant trend that we are seeing in luxury packaging, both in glass and in plastic components, is heavy walls and thicker heals. New stock glass jars that we are developing at ABA Packaging are ‘heavyweight’ styles to satisfy the need for a luxury look and feel. [Also] ABA Packaging represents Promens exclusively in the U.S., and they have an extensive line of stock heavy wall plastic jars produced in Spain that are a perfect fit for the luxury market. They have the capability of producing heavy-wall, blow-molded bottles at their production facilities in France, and we are seeing our custom bottle development projects for the luxury market going in this direction.”

Of this trend, Cahalen comments, “Bottles and jars [are] being requested in the season’s most popular colors in an attempt to stand out while still staying on trend. Gunmetal, for example, has been a highly requested finish because of its sleek look and edgy style.”

Hou has noticed a rise of metal as well. “We see a trend among our luxury beauty clients and the industry as a whole of utilizing metal overshell components to enhance their selected packaging, whether it be accentuating through a metal-shelled pump or closure on bottles and jars to utilizing metal shell exteriors on the entire components,” he notes.

Slowey, confirming both the weight and decoration trends, notes these packaging elements are helping justify the price point for luxury. “Currently many companies are looking for very thick, very elegant-looking bottles and jars, giving both a rich look and also a feel in the hand that the product is substantial and worth the price charged. We are also seeing decoration move from an afterthought to become the defining character in a line of products, taking what may be a simple-shaped package and adding coatings and prints that were once not available or out of reach for most budgets. Animal prints and other textured looks are becoming more requested as the cosmetic world looks to the fashion world for hints,” he says.

With that decoration and weight, Telwar points out quality comes in attention to detail, noting that some of the latest advances in primary packaging have functional aesthetics. “When this is the case, there can be more attention on a beautiful, useful, entire product—not just the outside packaging,” she says.

Airless is one packaging option with a functional raison d’être. “Airless packaging continues to play a large role in the luxury sector as consumers continue to seek out more innovative formulas and more intelligent packaging systems,” Cahalen explains. “These advanced formulations are often best suited in airless packaging that offers an array of benefits to not only the formula but also the user. We have seen a larger push for color cosmetics moving into airless packaging, [including] unique color formulations such as gels and creams.”

Kwapis notes of airless’ functionality, “Most consumers want to be able to visibly see the product, especially how much is left. This is crucial as people are trying to follow regimens. Knowing when they are going to run out helps the user plan accordingly, both their time and budget.”

Kwapis also comments, “A lot of prestige brands have medical-based ingredients, so we are seeing an updated clinical/medicinal look that’s not sterile but is clean and streamlined. This accounts for why we’re seeing a lot of white and metallic finishes. Additionally, there have been a lot of requests for different dispensing options for dosage amounts or dispensers, to further customize products.”

As consumers are always looking for something new, brands should always be aware of what new packaging innovations are out there, as well. In working on trendy packaging, Telwar says of Anisa International, “We should be the ones bringing the content, the trends, the hot materials... to make it easier for the customer.”

Developing an Effective Pack

Another trend in luxury packaging is beauty brands and packaging suppliers working together earlier and earlier in development to optimize the product and its process.

Warford explains, “Luxury brands continue to challenge traditional methods of manufacturing in order to yield the innovative packaging for their products. In many cases, this rides on the cutting edge of technology and requires extensive samplings and modeling before the production process can be pushed forward. I have seen a number of projects that are multi-year development programs.”

Hou also notes, “I think it benefits a brand to work with a packaging supplier early in the product development process, even if the direction on packaging selection has not been clearly set. By starting early in thinking about potential packaging options, a brand has time to refine or modify packaging to something that is ideal for their needs—as opposed to leaving packaging selection until the last minute where time constraints could end up compromising their final packaging.”

Cahalen also adds that Fusion Packaging likes to be involved in the process as early as the product formulation stage. “It’s helpful if packaging can be discussed during formulation,” she says. “The thing about cosmetics is the product that consumers get is a blend of formulation and packaging. You have to have both parts working synergistically. The sooner you can start talking to the formulators and the package engineers to develop something that works symbiotically, the more unique your product is going to be.”

“Its really exciting [to get into the product development process early], especially when the customers have ideas to use,” comments Telwar. “Anisa International creates original items that follow and set fun, great trends, but no matter if an item is custom or not, we always develop products that will give the end user that rewarding feeling when they use them.”

A Luxurious Experience

When developing a beauty product’s packaging, its always best to always keep the end user experience in mind.

“We think you will see activity with packaging assisting more in the education, replenishment or advertising of products,” says Kwapis. “Packaging will become a strategic communication tool for brands to convey varying messages. Luxury packaging is all about an experience, so it will continue to provide this experience in a variety of ways. It might be as simple as new decoration techniques, delivery, protection or quality. Luxury is always going to evolve, and we see that being the case with packaging as well. The customer trusts the brand to perform for them—whether in how the product pumps, how well the product ships, or how the decoration holds up over the life of the product.”

Looking ahead, Telwar says she expects beauty to gain an even higher level of prestige. “I think it’s going to get more luxe. Our beauty consumers want really pretty things, and I think the successful brands are going to be the those who can give them that—without it costing an arm and a leg, of course. Affordable, functional and beautiful—those are the winners.”

Slowey sums up, saying, “The trend toward more elegant, more beautiful shows no sign of stopping or even slowing down. The luxury sector of beauty, fragrance and skin care will continue to lead the packaging world with new ideas and product applications. The need for something new has been around for a long time, and the luxury brands are in the best position to demand that designers and engineers continue to create new items and ideas to satisfy their needs.”

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