Life in the land of luxury

27 November 2015



Philippe Thuvien, packaging and development director at L’Oréal, provides an insight into how the company addresses issues of cost, sustainability and counterfeiting in its luxury designs.


In the world of cosmetics, attractive designs are a must-have to differentiate new products. However, they must be delivered in a sector that is paying more attention to costs.

In emerging markets, millions of new consumers are clearly beginning to see their incomes increase, allowing them to buy cosmetic products - provided that they are adapted to their needs, culture and purchasing power. Meanwhile, because of the economic downturn, many consumers in developed countries are reducing their expenses. Packaging should thus allow men and women to purchase cosmetics by offering products adapted to their market. For example, L'Oréal sells a Garnier shampoo in a 400ml bottle in North America; in a 250ml bottle in Europe; and in 2.5ml packs in India, in the Philippines and in some South American countries.

Consumers also expect products to have a true added value, such as more visible and measurable results, and flawless quality. In order to achieve this, L'Oréal is improving the ergonomics of its products by developing new features, such as greater comfort or a more practical formula dispenser. Olia, for example, provides ammonia-free hair colouring in a bottle that is elegant and easy to handle.

Sustainable development

Another concern of cosmetic brands is meeting sustainable development issues with more environmentally friendly materials that preserve fossil resources and reduce energy consumption. On the whole, L'Oréal's materials will be the same tomorrow as those it uses today, with one difference: they will no longer come from fossil energy sources but from bio-renewable and/or recycled resources. It will also make sure that its folding cartons and paperboards (FSC or PEFC certified) are sourced in a responsible manner.

In addition, the company has introduced a policy to reduce primary and secondary packaging for packaging used between suppliers and its plants as well as for its products, and is committed to reducing the waste generated by its finished products by 50% between 2005 and 2015, alongside cutting water consumption and CO² emissions.

The L'Oréal plant in Jababeka, Indonesia, is, for example, LEED certified, a US standard that defines strict rules for sustainable building design (in particular, rational use of water and energy). Other group production sites (for example, Settimo Torinese in Italy and Libramont in Belgium) have set the objective of rapidly reaching a zero-carbon footprint.

The cosmetics industry should also anticipate regulatory and media expectations. For example, L'Oréal must focus on the 'fair' protection of its formulas. The quality of raw materials, the formulation, the manufacturing and packing processes, and the packaging falls within this scope.

Machine suitability

L'Oréal adapts its manufacturing processes and packaging machines to address these challenges. Its objective is to find the suitable materials for its performance, quality and reliability requirements. On basic products and high volumes, this involves having powerful machines in terms of speed with very few adjustment points to make the process more reliable. On the other hand, for complex and/or high-value-added products, the focus will be on flexibility in order to better respond to the brand requirements, in terms of innovation and to adapt to several products.

The more the company optimises its deadlines for making the machines and tools available, the better it is in regard to reactivity and capacity to produce at the best possible cost.

Traceability: a key factor

The traceability of L'Oréal's products is a regulatory necessity, and key to fighting against counterfeiting and the parallel market, and thus to protecting consumers from purchasing counterfeited cosmetic products.

In addition, the interactive and multimedia packaging features are great vectors of innovation and differentiation. The company keeps a close watch on coding and authentication solutions in order to:

  • secure its products and always stay ahead of counterfeiters
  • globalise information and data exchanges, by using the potential of new technologies
  • increase interactivity with consumers by offering them more services and information, once again through new technologies.

Beyond its primary function, which is to protect, transport and preserve the product, smart packaging makes it possible to inform and advise the consumer, for example, on colours. It is also a promotion and advertising support for the brand. The challenge is to integrate the new communication channels (QR codes, RFID or conductive ink) into traditional media, such as folding cartons, labels and sleeves.

Packaging patents

In order to answer all these expectations and constraints, brands must innovate continuously. L'Oréal thus strongly invests in research and innovation, and, for example, filed more than 600 patents in 2012 (including more than 70 packaging patents). It is through innovation that the group will manage to achieve the objective it has set: winning one billion new consumers within ten years.

L'Oréal's research, innovation and marketing departments are responsible for developing products combining high levels of quality and performance. The company has just opened a new research centre in India, and will soon open another in Brazil to develop products corresponding to local expectations.

In addition, in order to reinforce the partnership with its suppliers and accelerate packaging innovation, L'Oréal launched the Cherry Pack operation three years ago. It enables the company's suppliers' packaging innovations to enter 'at the heart' of the business while offering brands throughout the group's divisions either 'ready-to-use' or more prospective innovations.

Sustainability: beyond cosmetics

Speaking on the topic of sustainable luxury packaging, Chris Williamson, global brand manager for Ballantine's Whisky, says: "Luxury does not have to exclusively demonstrate opulence and extravagance in materials. We believe that the design and manufacture of luxury packaging provides the opportunity to showcase our craftsmanship. Using modern techniques and materials, with the skill of traditional craftspeople and protecting their craft, offers a sustainable approach for the future of packaging.

"Creative sensibilities and development of sustainable luxury are both important considerations for us. The Ballantine's 2015 Golf Limited Editions with Ian Poulter is a good example of this as it was designed with longevity in mind. We were keen to go beyond the 'gift with purchase' approach and put more emphasis on the packaging as being a desirable item, as well as the whisky itself. The format, style and quality of the new pack have been carefully considered to engage with consumers and encourage them to see it as a collectable item rather than something disposable."

The choice of materials and, of course, how the converter will use these to create the luxury packaging has to be placed into the context of the packaging's life cycle. However, innovation with luxury packaging design can be achieved and is being done so on a daily basis by many of the world's leading brands.



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