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Packaging—More Than Aesthetics

By: Elizabeth Abrams
Posted: November 9, 2009, from the November 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

Walk the aisles of any cosmetics and perfumes department, and you’ll see an interesting dynamic. Products are becoming cleaner, fresher and more streamlined, and consumers are responding. It’s no longer about extravagance; it’s about simplicity.

Manufacturers have tailored their scents, colors and textures to fit this new consumer preference, and that preference is a direct result of their lack of purchasing power. With less disposable income to spread around, consumers are looking for value, and pure scents and neutral shades will only win over consumers if that idea is evident in the price tag. This rejection of opulence also reflects an increased demand for sustainable products—natural, organic and eco-friendly goods that meet your health and beauty needs but do not cost more or create additional waste to do so. The number of sustainable products on shelf grew 79% between 2007 and 2008, and 66% of retailers are transitioning to “green” products as a result, according to the TerraChoice 2009 Greenwashing Report and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, respectively.

This desire for inexpensive but high value products has manufacturers clamoring for ways to reduce cost and simultaneously boost sales. Consumer and product analysts are pitching not just cleaner products but packaging that reflects that idea of sustainable simplicity. Shelves are lined with packages claiming the product within is 100% natural, certified organic and naturally pure, and while the look of a product can make or break a sale, it’s important to recognize that as consumers grow increasingly aware of the green movement, they become increasingly savvy at distinguishing the truly sustainable face cream from the pseudo-green acne wash. The beauty industry is susceptible to greenwashing accusations, but with an emphasis on being truly sustainable, a brand can both retain its customer base and generate new sales. And since it is the packaging of the product that attracts the consumer first, it should be here that the sustainable journey begins.

Time for Some Numbers

Logistics contributes $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy, according to the 19th Annual State of Logistics Report. Costs associated with logistics account for 6.9% of a consumer packaging goods company’s sales, with 38% of that cost coming from outbound customer transportation, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association. A packaging design should, in addition to being attractive and functional, be streamlined for compact and durable transport. As energy prices continue to rise, it’s an ideal time to revamp packaging design to make a positive downward impact on transportation costs. So, how can the cost of packaging be reduced? Change it up. Swap out materials, cut back on materials when possible and find a transportation provider that can handle goods in the most efficient way possible.

Out With the Old, In With the New

There is no doubt that in the beauty care industry, a product’s image drives or deflates sales, and packaging can make or break that image. But it is also critical to find packaging that can handle those long hauls from the warehouse to the shelf.