How packaging can be the fastest way to deliver luxury

19 July 2018

Who doesn't love a little bit of luxury? The packaging industry certainly does. Adding value to brands in the name of luxury is a great way to differentiate, stand out on shelves and build loyalty. Emma-Jane Batey speaks to brand-owners and packaging manufacturers to learn more about being extra.

What is luxury? The Oxford English Dictionary describes luxury as 'a state of great comfort or elegance; an inessential, desirable item; a pleasure obtained only rarely', all of which sound pretty appealing. So it's no surprise that brands love to bring a taste of luxury to their products, with packaging being an immediate way to deliver.

Some products, by their very nature, are luxurious, such as fresh flowers, chocolates and candles, so the right packaging can elevate already desirable goods further into the luxe category. Phil Humphreys, managing director of Malvern-based Pendragon Packaging, explains how focusing on luxury packaging manufacturing for more than 30 years has been the key to the family-owned company's success.

Humphreys says, “Confectionery has always proved to be an important sector in the luxury packaging market, but since moving into our purpose-built factory and offices in 2003, we soon saw the fragrance and candle sectors becoming stronger, with packaging for fragrance now being an extremely important part of our design and manufacturing capabilities.

“Also, over the past year or so, we have seen a further development in the niche drinks market and particularly whisky, which has proved to be a significant part of our turnover in 2017. It would appear that the lower-volume, premium-priced handmade ranges are becoming more significant in the luxury packaging sector.”

Light the flame

One of the latest artisan brands to join the growing luxury candle sector is Bougies D'Aquitaine. This French brand offers hand-made, soy wax, vegan-friendly products that are responsible and luxurious, bridging that increasingly demanded gap between high end and high morals.

Managing director Jane Hunt says, “We currently have ten French-inspired natural fragrances, including Violette and Pain aux Raisins, with every aspect of the product focused on natural luxury. Although the product is hand-made, the look and feel is definitely not. We use heavy white opaque glass jars and deliver the jars in glossy, strong white cardboard boxes with a thick white ribbon. Each candle has a distinct accent colour related to its scent, which is then carried through on the labels.”

Hunt adds, “Even as a relatively new business, we know that the luxurious presentation of our product is imperative to growing the brand; we're currently looking for wholesale partners to help us expand. Bougies D'Aquitaine is hand-made, yet high-end; luxury is everything.”

Branding agency Storm knows all about adding luxury. With experience in brand development for leading drinks brands and high-end confectionery companies among others, Storm's managing director Jonny Westcar appreciates what luxury means.

Westcar says, “If you take whiskey as an example, the spirit of the product has to be conveyed through the packaging way before it's tasted. Age statements come into it of course, but the presentation is often ceremonial, monolithic, it's a whole journey. It's the feel and sound of the closure, the feel of the box as you take it off the shelf, in the store and at home.

 “There's a greater level of consciousness around use of natural materials, too, and without ostentation. But it still needs to be luxurious. So there's interesting developments around second-use packaging, like beautiful glass bottles being used as ornamental vases. There's so much uniqueness in this category; premium packaging has so many exciting ways to differentiate [itself].”

Sweet treat

Chocolate has long been a go-to luxury item when it comes to treating yourself or someone you love. There's never been a better time to be alive if you're into artisan sweet treats. Packaging is a key differentiator in this sector, as the product itself is already considered pretty premium. Recent years has seen a huge rise in the number of artisan chocolate brands, with the 'self-gifting' market booming alongside presents for others. Long-established family-owned chocolate makers Beechs Fine Chocolates, based in Preston, Lancashire, manages to stylishly walk the line between traditional and modern, with its 2015 revamping of its brand image carefully curated to ensure it kept its heritage alive and well.

Beechs Fine Chocolates' managing director Peter Whiting says, “Our company was founded in 1920 and is still a 100% family-owned business and we've always been dedicated to making the finest chocolate, so we know our chocolate is wonderful; everything is made from natural ingredients and we use a much smaller particle size for our chocolate, giving a deliciously silky texture and a real burst of chocolate flavour.

“Our revamp came about because we decided to really analyse our packaging, to see what was working, what was selling well; we went through a rebranding.”

The Beechs rebranding included looking at the pack sizes across its range, with larger retail packs not as popular as the individual bars. Whiting says, “We saw that the individual 100g and 140g bars and smaller 200g boxes were our best sellers, so we worked to increase our range and to ensure the larger boxes were reduced to be more environmentally efficient, so we kept the same weight of product, but cut the waste. We knew we wanted to retain our brand heritage with our distinctive black swan logo, so we created our new luxurious packaging around our logo, but with highly decorative, jewelled-coloured thick paper.”

Whiting explains that the rebranding of Beechs Fine Chocolates extended across the range from bars to gifting boxes, with the added value element of the packaging a key decisions. “The different finishes we considered were all about adding value without adding a great deal of cost, so embossing, gold-foiled logos and a high-gloss UV varnish to make the colours stand out were all delightful ways to promote our products,” he says. “For our boxed chocolates, we also have a stylised Union Jack inside and a red interior, and the box is debossed on top; it's our super-premium range and it really is lovely looking. We still overwrap all our boxes too, so it's a nice feel when you take the wrapper off; it's an occasion.”

Touch of sophistication

In the cosmetics sector, packaging adds to desirability as well as performance, so a clever use of a pump here or a mirror integrated into a mascara there means consumers continually expect more. For US-based makeup brand Mai Couture, packaging is a key part of its brand identity. Available in high-end cosmetics stores including Sephora, Amazon Luxury and ASOS, Mai Couture is a unique concept of 'paper makeup'.

“I truly believe all products should have function and beauty,” says founder Mai Tran. “What's beautiful on the outside must also be beautiful on the inside. I wanted to give blotting paper packaging a fresh look beyond the pop-up style. Mai Couture Papiers are the mess-free, portable makeup solution for the modern woman – the only shatterproof, lightweight, convenient makeup of its kind.”

Mai Couture’s paper packaging is embossed with gold foil; there's no glass or heavy plastic in sight, no distinctive 'click' when the lid shuts. Tran says, “Mai Couture Papiers are new luxe, ideal for the girl who always wants to look fabulous with minimal effort without sacrificing time. Our packaging is designed to look good and be practical for everyday use. We believe in beauty and simplicity. Our latest launch of highlighters and Glow Duo includes a clear window, so the colour of the paper is visible when sitting on a store shelf. We absolutely love our new design and so do our customers.”

That sense of occasion is part of what makes a product luxurious. Whether it's a self-gifted bar of chocolate on pay day or a birthday goodie from a generous friend, the feeling of treating yourself is why consumers pay that bit more. But luxury packaging doesn't just mean traditional packaging, even though that's no bad thing. Luxury can be innovative too, especially in a sector where it's almost always a want not a need.

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