Luxe in a box

25 April 2016

Luxe in a box

Luxe in a box

Luxury brands want ecologically sustainable packaging that also has the 'wow' factor, to make their products stand out on the shelves and online. Emma-Jane Batey speaks to leading industry players to learn how brands are achieving their luxury goals.

Anyone who has given or received a duck-egg-blue Tiffany bag with a little duck-egg-blue Tiffany box inside will likely be aware of the power of luxury packaging. The iconic packaging - now made, incidentally, with 50% recycled material, and awarded the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification - shows how the anticipation of something wonderful has as much to do with the look and feel of the presentation of the product as the product itself. Although, knowing there's a big diamond ring inside probably helps too.

The relationship between ecologically sustainable packaging and its luxury quality is a welcome one. Previously, the two were not considered compatible, but now no brand can be seen failing to be ecologically responsible. The look-good, be-good sector is growing fast, particularly as the highest and lowest ends of the consumer-products market are growing faster than the mid-range market.

Packaging manufacturer Paperfoam, based in the Netherlands, produces bio-based, environmentally friendly packaging materials. It uses injection-mouldimh technology to create a light, home-compostable material that replaces traditional packaging products. Well-known, high-end brands such as personal and beauty care favourite Burt's Bees, and Champagne house Verve Cliquot, have chosen Paperfoam for their packaging to ensure that they tick all the right boxes.

Perfect match

Mark Geerts, CEO at Paperfoam, says: "Our unique product combines industrial starch, natural fibres, water and a premix to create an easily compostable material using injection-moulding technology. As well as being totally biodegradable, it's incredibly light, which decreases carbon emissions during transport. The use of locally sourced renewable materials also cuts this down. Regarding our partnership with Burt's Bees, we're proud to be able to realise their sustainability goals while maintaining excellent product visibility and ensuring great product placement."

To deliver the high standard of packaging demanded by the luxury sector, Geerts noted that the precise designs and well-formed shapes of Paperfoam's injection-moulded product made a perfect match. He says: "Injection moulding can be formed precisely around the product, containing it and presenting it beautifully. It is also very tactile, and - with the right design and careful execution - creates a valuable first impression for luxury products. A well-formed package is a luxury image, and as we ensure that our packaging is ecologically sound, it's a smart choice."

Luxury packaging manufacturer Design Packaging is based in the US, and values a collaborative approach between the brand, the packaging designer and the manufacturer. As creative director Evelio Mattos says, "every brand has its nuances".

The company's aim, as a luxury packaging design consultancy, is to create share-worthy signature moments that build brands through experiences and by creating a physical connection to the brand.

Mattos says: "Luxury or prestige retail packaging activates sensory cues that trigger a luxe response in the mind of the consumer. Our role is to identify those cues and make sure that the packaging we create delivers every time. For example, the interactive nature of luxury packaging provides delayed gratification through the unveiling process, which leads to a stronger brand impression. You also have to consider the sound your packaging makes, such as the expensive-sounding low pitch of heavyweight board boxes being opened. Consider, too, the tactile nature of the packaging; a classic telltale cue of luxury is pairing an all-over embossed uncoated paper with a sculpted metallic or high-gloss hot stamp."

Mind the warp

Beautifully designed packaging is a powerful branding tool, but quality control is essential when it comes to maintaining a luxury profile. Mattos says: "No matter how well your design communicated luxury on screen or in photographs, the tangible mass-produced package is what has to deliver the goods. Understanding how climate impacts materials and print processes at every stage of production, through to the final user, is critical to delivering luxury packaging. Humidity, in particular, is often overlooked. Are materials being imported from to a dry climate from a humid one? Have you considered grain direction or taken corrective measures to avoid warping or glue separation? Warped packaging is an immediate way to devalue your product."

Luxury packaging manufacturer Prestipack agrees that quality control is especially important. Founded in France but now based in London, the company creates handmade and high-end prestige packaging. Neelam Anjum, business development manager says: "Packaging is about more than simply producing carrier bags and boxes. It's about making sure the brand is recognisable and, most importantly, that it is sought after by its target clientele."

[pull quote] Have you considered grain direction or taken corrective measures to avoid warping or glue separation? Warped packaging is an immediate way to devalue your product.

Prestipack's clients include globally renowned luxury brands such as Swiss watchmaker Ebel and Champagne house Moet et Chandon. Anjum says: "To ensure we provide the finest, most innovative packaging product, we work with our customers to guide them through a choice of materials, printing techniques and processes, including hot stamping, embossing and debossing, varnishes, laminations, die cuts and special handles for bags. We have a diverse range of paper and board boxes, as well as various textures, colours and finishes. We can also wrap, lacquer and stain our luxury wooden boxes and use materials such as leather and suede. Our team scrutinises every element of the design and production to guarantee that the packaging we deliver is truly luxurious, and the perfect reflection of our customers' brands."

Promote the ethos

Packaging must show the luxury cues of a brand, as it is the consumer's first physical connection to the product. Popular British chocolatier Hotel Chocolat asks a lot of its packaging: protection of the product, promotion of its brand ethos and communication of its chocolate's luxury status. With 70 stores across the UK and a successful e-commerce site, Hotel Chocolat's packaging has to withstand the rigours of the postal system to arrive at its destination looking fresh and fancy. Mike Piaggesi, packaging manager, says: "We love to present our chocolate in a way that adds drama, excitement and style to the experience. Our packaging has to be strong and stylish, with luxurious design effects and responsible eco-heritage."

Hotel Chocolat operates sustainably and responsibly. It obtains nearly 100% of its card and paper packaging and shopping bags from FSC-certified sources. Many of its packaging options are also reusable, such as its hat boxes, which are made with distinctive black and white strong card.

Luxury brands are guided by high-end design, ecological responsibility and a desire to deliver packaging that adds value to the customer's experience. Packaging that meets these goals is worth its weight in gold

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