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beauty Packaging
Analysis: beauty
 
Kevin Rozario, Packaging News, 01 August 2006
Cheap labour is drawing beauty packaging production eastwards, but Europe still leads in the fields of creativity and design. Kevin Rozario examines the potential for a happy medium.
In the past decade, packaging has taken giant strides forward in the role it plays in the marketing of beauty products. Fragrances 每 at least in their high-cost advertising and promotion launch phases 每 can succeed or fail depending on the outer carton packaging design and on the appeal of the bottle itself.
Beauty houses have long bemoaned the expense of creating unique moulds for fragrance bottles, but they are caught on a treadmill of new launches, from which they are too afraid to step down.
This means extra business for packaging firms, but pressure is mounting in the beauty houses to keep rising costs under control 每 especially in areas such as tooling.
Moving production to a low-wage market, such as China, has been an attractive option from a cost control point of view, but it has resulted in problems for the brands; copycat fraud poses a significant danger for the identities that beauty brands spend millions to develop and maintain.
At this year*s Cosmoprof show in Bologna 每 the biggest international gathering of all channels of the beauty business 每 the importance of packaging*s role was underlined by the organiser*s decision to give the adjacent show, Cosmopack, an early start, so that exhibitors and visitors had an exclusive day of meetings. On the same day, there was a panel discussion about the problems that face the European industry and, at the top of the agenda, was outsourcing to China. The wariness of moving production eastwards was palpable.
HCT Packaging chief executive James Thorpe says: ※The industry is always looking for something new: flex lipsticks, for example. The problem is that items are copied immediately in places such as Taiwan. So an idea is out of date within a year.§
Wholesale copycats
Germany*s Dieter Bakic Design chief executive Dieter Bakic adds: ※The Chinese are now copying whole concepts: for example, the French natural ingredients beauty firm L*Occitane has seen its entire brand identity duplicated. Young people just want something new 每 they don*t care about the brand heritage.§
These worries are increasing in the European market, yet packaging firms are in a quandary because they know that globalisation means they have to do business in China. It*s more a question of how this is managed.
Renato Ancorotti, chief executive of Italy*s colour cosmetics contract manufacturer Gamma Croma believes European packagers have to be more creative to keep business here. ※It*s clear that standard production is moving to countries with low labour costs. So we have to offer more inventive and value-added products and ideas,§ he says.
Experimentation with materials and state-of-the-art techniques to produce different effects are part of this value-added process. In Cremona, Italy, where the firm is based, it has banded together with other cosmetic filling, packaging and manufacturing companies to form a 42-strong unit. Ancorotti adds: ※This way we can create synergies and work with schools and universities to produce a centre of excellence.§
This concept has its merits, as it means that the high-value &ideas* side of the packaging business 每 which the brands are willing to pay more for 每 can stay in Europe, even if firms then opt for cheap manufacturing elsewhere.
Giuseppe Meana, chief executive of Italy*s Cartografica Pusterla, which makes light board and polypropylene boxes for the beauty market, confirms this is the way forward. ※We will work closely with customers to develop something exclusive. We rarely do anything standard. Our know-how is our strength,§ he says. ※But we accept there are price issues and this had led us to use factories in several different countries, especially for products that require a lot of manual work.§
That said, packagers are still going to have to be more versatile in their approach to stop the declines in glass and flexible packaging seen in some markets. Jean-Louis Matthiez, vice-president for technical packaging innovation at the giant beauty house Coty, says: ※We have to do a pilot for everything before we do a filling, so flexibility and the confirmation of price are very important. All too often, we work with estimates.§
Focus on feasibility
Bakic, who has worked with Boots* own-label products and Virgin Vie cosmetics, understands where the brands are coming from and tells Packaging News: ※In Europe, we now need to focus more on feasible designs that can be produced economically. Innovation is what is driving beauty packaging and it*s become a faster cycle 每 down from seven years to about three.§ However, he points to the fact that packaging is still a fragmented industry and that ※it*s still difficult to get the designers and technicians together§.
Suggesting a more radical shift is Thomas Weckerle, chief executive of German packaging firm Weckerle Cosmetics. He says: ※We must innovate in the complete supply chain; new packaging should be talked about with the filler before the marketing stage. Lead times should be zero so that, in the morning, we can decide what we are producing in the afternoon. We could be lipstick-filling today, and doing pencils tomorrow and blush sticks the day after 每 or even in tandem. We need to do this using modular, plug-and-play machinery. This is the way to keep the business here in Europe.§
 
 
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