Altering packaging to meet changing customer demands

20 July 2018

The use of technology within packaging has become vital for retail, as it is not only changing the traditional way of shopping but also expanding the reach of retailers and consumers alike. From selection of the product to the final payment process, technology is everywhere – improving the experience for the shopper. Sonia Sharma finds out more.

Today, retail has become highly customer-centric, and retailers are using the latest technologies to better cater to that base, in store and online. In a fast changing world, consumers are demanding more from the products they purchase, and in the retail sector, packaging is the key touch point. 

Packaging should be the physical embodiment of brand identity, through a well-defined set of distinctive assets, and developing and reinforcing those assets is critical to a brand’s success. In the retail sector, consumers learn to identify distinctive brand assets, such as the Coca Cola red hue or the minimalist design of Chanel – brands need to define and protect their distinctive signifiers. For optimum success, brands need to learn how shoppers navigate the category, what shortcuts they use and how they recognise brands in an instant.

Telling a Story

Fragrance packaging, in particular, has a crucial role to play and tells an important story about both the brand and the scent. According to market research, the global perfumes market value is estimated to be $39.67 billion and is expected to register a CAGR of 5.9% over the next 10 years. The outer layer of products can exude decadence, a feeling of luxury and the allure of the product itself, because it sends subconscious cues to the consumer that influences their purchasing decision. However, as further scrutiny is being placed on companies to produce more eco-friendly solutions, the cosmetics and fragrance industry finds itself trying to overcome this challenge, as it’s a market that is notorious for excess packaging.

Removing inessential parts of the packaging is something that the Hydra Life moisturising range, from Christian Dior, has done. The high-end line is presented in eco-friendly packaging, and the pack has been designed to remove any unnecessary elements – such as the leaflet, corrugated card and cellophane – with a reduced glass weight and the predominant use of inks from natural origin. Dior’s Hydra Life, a collection of nine products, is skewed toward a younger, product-conscious consumer, as the line is free of unnecessary ingredients and is sold in colourful, eco-designed packaging. “With the new Dior Hydra Life moisturizing range, the House is inventing the beauty of tomorrow: concentrated, natural, pared-down and ultra-performing formulas, in eco-friendly packaging”, as Dior states.

Travel gifting

Due to the gifting nature of travel retail products, packaging needs to be able to withstand exertion. If the consumer is travelling long distances, the packaging has to cope with an increased amount of external stress, including handling in the store, baggage searches, being bashed about in storage compartments and the full length of transportation from purchase to destination, without noticeable damage.

A brand with limited edition packaging, or special packaging that is exclusive to travel retail, provides a combination of luxury and a unique personal brand experience that the consumer will want to take away from the store. This trend appears across a variety of different product markets. For example, cosmetics company NARS revealed its first ever travel retail exclusive collection: the NARSissist #JetSetter collection. Similarly, industry heavyweights in the beauty market, such as Christian Dior and Givenchy, have launched fragrances that are solely available in duty free stores within the airport.

Tactile touches

To provide the consumer with an enhanced experience, fragrance company Floral Street teamed up with James Cropper 3D Products to produce a striking and sustainable solution. Floral Street were looking for an alternative to the lavish over-packaging used by existing brands, opting instead for an elegance that is also environmentally friendly. The result is a box made entirely from James Cropper 3D Products’ Colourform packaging. Michelle Feeney, founder of Floral Street, said, “We really wanted to change the way perfume is presented with Floral Street and do it in a way that had a reduced impact on the planet – that means no cellophane, no rigid carton and no plastic inserts. We worked with our design agency – Michael Nash Associates – and James Cropper 3D Products to produce a complete packaging solution, which included a lid, a base and interchangeable inserts for the various bottle sizes, and which mirrored our beautiful yet industrial aesthetic. It was also essential for it to be fully recyclable, and to be made using sustainable production methods.”

For a long time, the fragrance industry has been guilty of using elaborate plastic packaging with various components, making it difficult to recycle. With Floral Street, customers can carry their favourite fragrance home in a sustainable box, knowing that their impact on the environment has been minimal. They can then easily recycle the box as they would any other paper waste or reuse it in any way they wish. Plastic-free packaging is helping consumers and brands express themselves in a way that has been challenging until now. “Each Floral Street fragrance comes tucked inside a groundbreaking pulp carton with an embossed lid, made from recyclable paper packaging and held together with a re-usable, brightly-coloured band. We’re proud that we can offer a totally recyclable and biodegradable box – a first for the world of fragrance. The box can then be re-purposed to store jewellery, crystals, herbal teas, as a seed tray for plants and herbs – and just about anything else”, the company says.

Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics were another cosmetics company that decided to use the technology from James Cropper 3D Products. Matthew Miller, business director at the packaging company, said, “We’re all used to seeing soaps, perfumes and cosmetics clad in plastic packaging in one form or another – it’s been the norm for years. However, it’s this sort of packaging that, on the whole, goes in the normal waste stream, rather than being recycled. With this being a huge detriment to sustainability efforts worldwide, retailers, brands and manufacturers in the sector are increasingly looking for alternative options. Our product is easily recycled with household paper, but even if it does end up in landfill, it is naturally biodegradable and therefore leaves no trace whatsoever.”

The company partnered with Lush to work on a bespoke piece for its bath oil products. Kirstie Maclean, Lush R+D and production for brand, said, “The challenge for this project was really set by the need to elevate the customer experience when shopping our bath oil category, coupled with sincere considerations around waste, single use materials and functional design. James Cropper was the ideal choice – a British mill enthusiastic to embark on developmental projects and push innovation. The relationship has been open and supportive. The outcome is a slick, sustainable, lightweight and transportable box that allows the customer a ‘pick and mix’ experience with the products.”

Capitalising on collaborations

Products that bring together well-known brands also provide a creative opportunity to entice consumers with a once-in-a-lifetime purchase experience that capitalises on the gifting nature of travel retail. The Havana Club Union Rum sees a partnership between Havana Club and luxury cigar Cohiba and is the first Cuban rum specifically designed to be paired with cigars. The cedar wood cabinet and glass bottle work symbiotically to create a high-quality and eye-catching platform for the rum, while also presenting an authentic representation of Cuban culture. Creating a memorable experience for the consumer helps to establish positive brand association, and exclusive travel retail products give packaging companies a creative environment to produce out-of-the ordinary creations, which would not necessarily work in traditional shopping environments. Companies that understand and address the different nature of travel retail stand a much greater chance of success than those who don’t. And with the market developing at a significant pace, the opportunities for brands to develop a strong global reputation in the sector is expanding.

Aside from recyclable materials, companies are looking towards using smaller packaging for the same sized product. Most recently, Ball Corporation collaborated with Unilever to deliver an aluminium antiperspirant can, which employs ReAl technology. The Rexona and Sure antiperspirant cans use the technology to reduce carbon footprint by 18%. Unilever – the UK’s largest deodorant manufacturer – has been heavily involved in revolutionising the deodorant aisle through its compressed sizes. The cans – from the Sure, Dove and Vaseline brands – last the same length of time as previous can but use only 50% of the propellant, making them half the size of the original. The three brands use, on average, 25% less aluminium and, due to the smaller size, will fit 53% more cans onto a pallet, contributing to lower transportation costs.

Amanda Sourry, chairman at Unilever UK and Ireland, said, “Unilever is becoming a leader in sustainability, and we believe this new innovation represents a genuine change in the way aerosol deodorants can be manufactured. The reduced environmental impact of providing consumers with a smaller can will take us another step closer to realising our global ambition of doubling the size of our business while reducing our environmental impact.” Unilever is working towards its ambitious Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, which aims to halve the greenhouse gas impact of products across the lifecycle and halve the waste associated with the disposal of products by 2020.

As companies strive towards their sustainability goals by implementing different initiatives and strategies, retail packaging looks to be making vast progress.

 “As further scrutiny is being placed on companies to produce more eco-friendly solutions, the cosmetics and fragrance industry finds itself trying to overcome this challenge, as it’s a market that is notorious for excess packaging”

“Unilever is working towards its ambitious Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, which aims to halve the greenhouse gas impact of products across the lifecycle and halve the waste associated with the disposal of products by 2020.”

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