Packages for cosmetics: beautiful and efficient

Few sectors are confronted with as divergent consumer wishes as the cosmetics industry. While luxury articles presented in glossy garb are growing in popularity, another beauty trend is embracing sustainability in response to the growing market for natural cosmetics with resource-conserving packaging. Flexibility is therefore the order of the day for packaging manufacturers and packaging machine suppliers.

Redacción Alabrent

The world is becoming more affluent, and people want to wallow in luxury. This is illustrated among other things by the fact that more expensive cosmetics are being sold today than ever before. Lavish and upmarket packages are commonplace for perfumes, lipstick and creams. Even the outward impression has to promise quality and extravagance and offer as much extra utility as possible.

But in the beauty sector, there is also an entirely contrary trend, with “Back to nature” being the credo of many consumers. Attaching importance to naturalness and sustainability, they go for natural cosmetics for which lavish luxury packages would tend to be counterproductive. According to a current study by auditors and accountants KPMG and commercial researchers IFH Köln, the German market for natural cosmetics is set to grow by 7 per cent per year until 2020 – more than any other cosmetics segment.

Cosmetics suppliers are thus faced with a difficult task, for they not only have to cater to two contrasting trends, but are also having to deal with increasingly choosy consumers. “It is now becoming obvious that the illustrative effect of an idealised design has reached its promotional peak. From now on, it will be a question of showcasing the product itself. In the aesthetics of package design, the trend towards purity and authenticity is juxtaposed with a conflicting trend towards complexity and exoticism,” trend researcher Peter Wippermann, Professor for Communication Design in Essen, explains.

Less sheen, more green

The complicated issue of appropriate package design is compounded, finally, by the problem of the soaring cost of energy and raw materials, which is an obstacle to the production of elaborate packages. Although there is a demand for perfumes in glass flacons with real gold print, they are unlikely to become mainstream. Wippermann in fact believes that companies will increasingly espouse sustainability and attempt to curb costs by abandoning certain materials in favour of new combinations. The trend researcher cites the example of Gillette that is using mouldable cellulose from renewable bamboo and reed fibres for secondary packaging.

Other companies are also following this trend. Packaging specialist Carl Edelmann, for example, has developed a folding box for natural cosmetics that, it claims, embodies an all-out ecological strategy coupled with high quality. The box is made of 80 per cent recycled materials and is printed with oil-free inks produced exclusively with renewable resources and green electricity. This way, says Edelmann, the carbon footprint in production is 76 per cent smaller than for conventional packages. Cosmetics suppliers can thus clearly reduce their emissions via the package as well. For their part, consumers can feel good about “going green” in their purchasing behaviour.

Another way of conserving resources is with packages whose special material properties enable them to be emptied more efficiently. Tubes and shower gel packages are very popular with consumers for practical and aesthetic reasons, although it is often difficult to get the last drops of the product out of them. When disposed of, these packages often still contain sizable product residues. Researchers at the Technische Universität München are therefore developing packaging with the lotus effect, for example. The cosmetic contents adhere poorly to the water-repellent surface structure of the material, and it is therefore easier to completely empty the package. Another solution is readily deformable tubes susceptible to creasing whose contents can be squeezed out more easily.

At interpack 2014 in Düsseldorf from 8 to 14 May 2014, visitors can gain their own precise ideas of the products that packaging manufacturers are creating to meet market requirements. interpack promises plenty of exciting insights, as packaging specialists are pulling out all the stops in their efforts to innovate and to boost efficiency. Overall, more than 1,160 companies of the total of roughly 2,700 exhibitors have products for the cosmetics industry in their portfolio.

Increasingly efficient packaging technology

The image and tradition of a brand often make it impossible to give the packaging a new, ecological face. For the relaunch of the Nivea brand, in which packaging specialists Weener was involved, the emphasis was on a return to the brand’s roots and user-friendliness. Manufacturer Beiersdorf is continuing to resort to classical PET bottles for the Nivea body care series. The image has undergone a change in terms of design, and the new overall package is said to be memorable and minimalistic with clear, tidy labelling, a slender, rounded, pleasant-to-touch bottle and gently sloping shoulders which almost seamlessly merge into the straight, upward-pointing closure.

To conserve resources and cut costs in package production and filling, groups like Beiersdorf have high expectations of the filling and packaging technologies. “There is a trend towards ever-faster and more reliable packaging machines. By using them, companies can shrink their ecological footprint and also cut costs,” Oliver Bernd, production expert at Deutsches Verpackungsintitut in Berlin, explains. Beiersdorf, for instance, claims to sell its Nivea body care line in 200 markets worldwide. Because different regions demand different product quantities, the bottle sizes have to vary. Weener, which produces the closures and supplies the injection moulds for them, therefore has to ensure that the package can be handled without a hitch on all production lines at all filling plants worldwide. Efficiency and production security are all-important for Beiersdorf. Reject packages and frequent stoppages, on the other hand, squander resources and push up costs.

Higher throughput, lower costs

High availability of its production lines is also top priority for the French L’Oréal cosmetics group. The company also sells strong brands that cannot readily be marketed in a downscaled, ecological get-up. To cushion rising raw materials prices, L’Oréal is putting its suppliers to the test. To optimise the filling processes on its make-up line, it has invested in the latest production technology from the German packaging and process specialist Bosch Packaging – among other things in the piston filling machine of the FLK 8000 CIP Plus Series. Piston filling machines are used above all for filling thin-bodied, thick-bodied and pasty products. The FLK from Bosch raises efficiency and output, the company claims, and thus reduces production costs despite rising prices.

“We were looking for a flexible and extensible machine that can also be cleaned during operation,” explains Pascal Sigonneau, responsible at L’Oréal for machine procurement in make-up production. “We finally plumped for Bosch as it is the only manufacturer capable of offering highly efficient cleaning, particularly when machine components are in contact with the product.” What is more, the FLK Clean-In-Place process is reproducible, i.e. it can be endlessly repeated without any loss of effectiveness.

Make-up machines are considered particularly difficult to clean because most of the products are water-resistant and contain oily substances designed to stay in contact with the skin for as long as possible. L’Oréal used to have the machines cleaned manually, which meant dismantling certain machine parts. Production stoppages lasting several hours were the consequence. The new line from Bosch operates with three tanks that can be cleaned independently of each other, meaning that two tanks are constantly in operation. “This way we’ve eliminated downtime and upped throughput,” says Sigonneau.

Sweden’s Norden Machinery, a subsidiary of the Italian Coesia Group and a specialist in tube-filling machines, is also constantly working on ways to enhance the flexibility and versatility of its systems. Norden’s most recent developments include an inspection system that detects leaky plastic and laminate tubes in-line with a 100 per cent success rate and automatically sorts them out without interruption. The process speed thus stays high and output is not marred by rejects, which cuts costs. “There are plenty of testing systems, but none like ours that achieves 100 per cent results,” says Hans Söderström, in charge of Technology at Norden. In this Swedish process, the tubes are filled with the product plus a marking gas – harmless hydrogen – and sealed. Then they are squeezed gently on the sides. Any escaping gas, however minute the quantity, immediately triggers a hydrogen sensor, the key element of the inspection system – and the faulty tube is ejected from production. Innovations like this one ensure that high-quality packages are not thwarted by the spiralling prices of energy and raw materials.

Messe Düsseldorf

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