Ulrich Deters of RPC Bramlage Division explains how material developments, manufacturing techniques and advanced decoration options give plastics the premium image required for cosmetics…
In the cosmetics and personal care industry, image is everything. Packaging plays a vital role in achieving this, helping to create premium branding and on-shelf appeal, but very often the challenge is to deliver this luxury positioning within a tight budget. This is particularly important for the more mass-market products – often referred to as ‘masstige’ brands – where competition is particularly tough and there is a need to establish a prestige image and effective differentiation.
While pack appearance is critical to attracting the consumer, especially for the initial trial of a product, the functionality of the pack will also have a key role in encouraging repeat purchases. Naturally how the actual product performs will be the main driver, but the way it is dispensed or applied can be enhanced on both a practical and sensorial level.
Advances in plastics over the years mean that the material is now a highly credible packaging solution for a wide range of personal care products. The development and refinement of injection moulding processes, for example, have allowed the manufacture of crème jars with excellent clarity. Double wall constructions provide the thickness which delivers an impression of quality without the extra weight.
Such technical developments enable many plastic cosmetic packs to create an appearance of substance that helps to convey the required image of quality. At the same time, their lighter weight provides convenience and ease of use for the consumer.
Dispensing systems have enabled the hygienic, controlled and accurate dosing of creams and lotions. Latest designs are able to handle even the most viscous of products to deliver a restitution rate of at least 97%, ensuring consumers feel they have got value for money from their product. Innovative systems where the dispensing of the product is via the stroke of the finger, similar to a caress, provide a tactile and sensory experience.
Plastics’ design and decoration versatility is a major benefit in establishing differentiation. Colour in particular plays a significant role in the branding of many products, and plastics’ ability to match specific shades and tones not only establishes product identity but also means packs can become part of extended family ranges.
Equally important, the flexibility of the material enables designers to be extremely creative. Even within the bounds of a traditional jar shape, variations can be produced to deliver the subtle differences in appearance that further enhance on-shelf presence.
DESIGNS FOR LIFE
In terms of decoration, plastics offer many different opportunities for effective individualisation, such as silk screen printing, hot stamping, labelling, embossing, vacuum metalising, spray lacquering and electroplating, all of which help to create compelling visual effects. Use of hot foil, for example, provides a finish that is both attractive and also practical, as it helps to minimise finger prints. All such benefits will be essential to meet the next generation of consumer demands for greater individuality and personalisation. This will mean packs need to be even more adaptable.
A particular challenge in developing packs for the cosmetic market is its fast pace, with products continually being revised and relaunched to match new trends and changing consumer demands. For established brands, any changes or improvements have to ensure that new consumers are attracted without alienating existing customers. The challenge is sometimes more than simply creating a new-look pack; the characteristics of the product can also be a factor in the pack design. In the cosmetics sector, airless dispensing technology has supported the successful introduction of numerous products of many different viscosities with technical innovations and enhancements that enable the systems to cope with small particulates or continue to operate smoothly even if air is trapped in the container
Airless systems and multilayer jars and containers with an EVOH barrier that prevent oxygen ingress have also been an important factor in supporting another growing trend in the sector, with an increasing focus on products with more natural ingredients and fewer or no preservatives in their formulations. The emergence of such products demonstrates how in today’s environmentally conscious world, luxury and sustainability must go hand-in-hand. Plastics’ light weight can help to minimise their carbon footprint while the material is also fully recyclable. Latest dispensing systems now feature pumps that contain no metal or glass parts to impede their recycling.
A premium luxury image remains a prerequisite for success in the cosmetics and personal care sector. By meeting this requirement, plastic packs are challenging the status quo in the market and offering manufacturers new branding opportunities.