Not just a pack

The evolution of cosmetic products goes hand in hand with the evolution of their pack. Packaging innovative technologies, new materials and design gave practical solutions to protection and preservation issues; handiness was also improved. In addition new packaging met consumer’s likings and the amusements that the pack involves. We take an outlook to perspectives and challenges regarding cosmetic packaging talking to Marco Piacentini, Managing Director of Chimar S.r.l., an Italian strategy and organization consulting company.
The choice of cosmetic packaging materials is influenced by different key factors, including consumers’ expectations. In particular, there are primary demands and secondary demands, Piacentini considers. Primary demands need to confront with formula development. Secondary demands are direct and linked to social trends but they count only when primary demands are completely satisfied. «What do you think customers expect from packaging? I tell you: they do expect exactly the same they did few thousand years ago. I say, keep it simple and back to basic. Cosmetic packaging is expected to perform in three ways. First of all, it is a pack: it does have to contain a product preserving it. Then, it is a tool consumers use to interact with the product: it has to be functional, easy to use and making the cosmetic friendly use. And it is the first thing a consumer sees of a product: it has to speak for it. To be consistent with the content. And to address to the targeted customers. These are the primary demands. I often see a great effort in focusing on secondary demands like being technological, interactive, sustainable, green, glamour and all other spoken trends, while primary demands are still poorly satisfied».

Marco Piacentini.

As a consequence, innovation in packaging is to find new solutions to satisfy the same said expectations. «What it does change is the degree of satisfaction customers demand. To be innovative in the packaging industry you need to have deep knowledge of the formula industry. For example, ten years ago no one was considering the use of EVOH in cosmetic packaging even if EVOH was very well known for performing a high barrier to gas effect. Since new products containing low chain hydrocarbons as solvent were proposed, the barrier effect of a packaging became an issue. EVOH made then its appearance in the cosmetic industry and now the development pushed up to have oxides doped polymers to enhance the barrier effects. As you can see, the innovation in packaging material was caused by trying to satisfy the primary need of a customer to have the product protected and preserved in time in turn originated by an innovation in the formula industry».

Trend and innovative materials for cosmetic products
When talking about trends, we need to define the market we are referring to, Piacentini says. «Trends are those said secondary demands depending on social mood. The overall trend is «simplicity». Clean, simple, transparent lines recalling. The content is the protagonist. The formula, the substance if you want to speak in a metaphoric way. In contrast to the appearance, the image, the look. A higher attention is driven on the effects, on the ingredients, on the efficacy. The purchasing action is more conscious, sober. Glass, aluminum and shiny metallic effects. Make up is the only access to luxury that most of the people can afford in these times. Accordingly, a glance of luxury is expected. Smaller shapes, classic and shiny. Mostly transparent material allowing a see through effect and recalling pharmaceutical products. Unnecessary is removed».
Considering innovative materials, the continuous development of the formula pushes for new functional material offering high technical performances «new materials offering enhanced barrier effects, antibacterial and preservatives properties, increased UV resistance and antistatic properties, improved impact and scratch resistance are coming out of the nanoscience laboratories. The polymers are doped with nano particles of metals to acquire a specific functionality. For example, HDPE doped with titanium dioxide showed some photo-catalytic activity granting an antibacterial action. This effect is strategic for all those formula with a limited amount of preservatives. Moreover, an increasing demand for metallic decoration is boosting metal deposition technology and development of specific coatings allowing a better finishing. New bio-polymers are also about to come, while I should mention the attempt to propose packaging solution offering interactive features like USB keys or QR codes».
Furthermore, according to Piacentini, key elements in the design have to be taken into account. «To be successful in designing a packaging is to be able to well balance what is expected by the market with what is possible and convenient for the producers. When looking back ten years from now I can see an increased attention in manufacturing costs and environment impact. This is also due to the new norm, guidelines and laws published in terms of good manufacturing practices, sustainability and healthcare. The cosmetic value chain is today an homologue of the food&beverages one, and it is getting closer and closer to the pharmaceutical industry. A higher quality standard and more careful controls implied a better management of the resources, a more conscious waste policy and in turn a deep change also in the packaging design. Nevertheless, this deep reorganization is basically almost completed now. The next coming challenge is on innovative materials: what I call «functional materials».

The ecologic perspective
Environmentally friendly approaches are a priority on some markets «in those countries with a consolidated economy, meaning Europe, USA, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, go green like claims can be found at every corner now. Conferences and workshop on sustainability are countless». Which are the most common approaches for ecologic design and which should they be? «Product and packaging design to be sustainable is a common practice in term of limited CO2 emission, recycled material, environment friendly processes and resources -Piacentini answers. -Still, the feeling is more that of a complement to good communication and advertising than a real turnover in the industrial process. Ecologic design should mainly refer to containing the waste out coming the production line. A well ecologically design packaging would cause the less impact possible during the production. Recycling possibilities have to be considered as well, but to be effective it is always needed the cooperation of the consumer».  
Ethical and environmental certifications regarding packaging are more and more frequent and seem to be appreciated. «Consumers do understand them, but generally speaking these certificates did not prove to stir alone the consumer choice. Still, there are certain condition that would turn these certificates in a must have: 1) a line of coherence with the formula. If the formula is claiming for an eco-friendly soul the packaging must have ethical and environmental certifications. 2) Said certifications are directly linked to an improved functional quality of the product, like granting the absence of possible poisoning component to transfer from the packaging to the formula. 3) The product is a standard that is difficult to differentiate. For example, environmental certification on the packaging of a eye contour cream will be appreciated but would not stir the purchasing action. The same certification on the packaging of a non functional bath&shower product might bent the choice. It is a nice to have, a good theme in communication, but not a critical unique selling proposition itself. Nevertheless, there are growing communities that are very careful with ethical and environmental aspects».

by E.Perani