Now you see it: The rise of peek-a-boo packaging


Secondary packs offer alluring glimpses of products to attract online sales

Boxes are not known for their excitement. But personal care products companies are making secondary packaging more alluring by designing packs to give consumers an enticing glimpse of the goods inside. They are also using their collective imaginations to create aesthetically desirable mixes of different materials and textures, maybe combining these with visually arresting spatial design.


Indeed, so-called ‘reveal’ packs in particular are in demand, Ian Bason, Sales Development Manager for UK-based Pollard Boxes, tells SPC. Such packages can offer teasing glimpses of products within, unveiling more information or product view with each step in the opening process. For instance, a box with a sleeve on top can hide a drawer, which, when pulled, finally unveils the product.

He notes this trend is growing as more products are bought online. “Retailers are wanting to give more of an experience when you receive it, rather than just opening a pack and getting the product… because you’ve not got the visual appeal in the shop anymore to [encourage you to] touch a pack,” he says.

The company produced the Vichy Christmas box for the 2015 festive season, for instance. This featured a window lid that involved fixing the window between the top paper and lower board layers, resulting in a neater finish. 

The festive feel

French secondary packagers, serving an industry that has always appreciated the value of quality packaging, have launched a wide variety of new designs. For Christmas 2015, France-based Alliora Coffrets produced a box set for a Narciso Rodriguez (US) brand fragrance, shower gel and body lotion for women. The body is made of laminated cardboard and screen printed with silver glitter, noted documents provided to SPC. A hinge extends along the entire length of the coffret, which closes with a magnet. A band of grained paper resembling a ribbon differentiates the matte base from the shiny upper half of the box.

For the same festive period, the company also packaged Yves Saint Laurent’s Black Opium fragrance for women in a square box whose bottom is covered with shiny, metallic-looking, polyester-coated paper. The lid, meanwhile, is printed a solid black with a silvery shimmer and embossed with the brand logo. Within is a thermoformed wedge designed to contain the bottle; a smaller, travel-sized spray bottle of the fragrance; and a make-up pouch. A ribbon (made of a material resembling leather) tops off the box. 

Paul Quéveau, the company’s General Director, tells SPC that the luminous, shining effect in packaging is popular among cosmetics companies. This can emphasise key parts of the packaging; for instance, hot stamping the product or brand name in gold.

Quéveau added that larger companies (Alliora supplies Yves Saint Laurent, Lancôme, Estée Lauder and Shiseido) tend to choose one secondary packaging design (typically luxurious) for a specific set of products and then use it around the world. “Certain customers ship these boxes worldwide to Europe, to the US [and] to Asia. They want to have a common effect all around the world,” he says.

The company is working on further innovations – in particular looking at the architecture of boxes and doors – and is set to reveal new developments at packaging fair Luxe Pack Monaco, in September.

Material difference

France-based Knoll Prestige Packaging is also focusing on mixing various materials. Florence Dancoisne, Sales & Marketing Director, Europe, tells SPC: “In our category of luxury rigid packaging, the projects usually combine different materials such as fabric, wood, foam and metal. The focus is generally on the reveal [which involves] the outside appearance and [creating] a spectacular affect when the boxes are opened.”

She added Knoll’s coffrets can also be used as displays in shops on counters, or reused in consumers’ homes.

For Christmas 2015, the company produced a wooden coffret for Lancôme’s Absolue L’Extrait skin care products, according to company documents. The luxury, hinged box is lacquered and includes a lacquered tray inside that can be pulled out to display the products: the Ultimate Rejuvenating Elixir, the Elixir Serum and two spatulas.

The inside of the box is wrapped in black satin and a high-density foam houses the products.

The company received an ‘Oscar de L’Emballage’ award for best 2015 packaging in the luxury category for its fragrance packaging for Lalique Parfums. The L’Amour Lalique coffret houses the fragrance in a rectangular golden cage with glass windows and two doors in the front. The golden cage was made of board panels laminated with gold mylar material and the doors are die cut. A pink organza fabric is hemstitched between the panels, which are silkscreen printed white, matching the L’Amour Lalique pattern. The base, podium and lid are wrapped in pink satin, and the top of the lid features a golden zamak handle.

In addition, Laure Malochet, spokesperson for France-based Cosfibel, tells SPC that the company has had demand on the luxury end for larger secondary packaging for smaller-sized products. “We are making very big boxes, really high end [for products such as 5ml or 10ml perfume bottles]. We are doing more boxes with different materials – for example, mixing cardboard with fabric, velvet [or] fake leather,” she says.

On the other hand, some cosmetics customers are looking for more eco-friendly, smaller secondary packaging. Many use Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-accredited paper, without any varnishes or lamination. Malochet adds that the company is also exploring the use of more water-based inks. The company is also sensitive to secondary packaging market trends around the world, noting that larger packages are more popular in the US, while clients in Europe and even Asia, such as Hong Kong, are looking for more eco-friendly options.

US innovates

That is not to say that American consumers do not appreciate innovation, of course. US-based cosmetics packager East Hill Industries noted in a November 2015 document that one key trend in cosmetics holiday packaging with a sustainable twist has been ‘keepsake packaging’, which the consumer can reuse. “Typically, this strategy is reserved for luxury brands, as keepsake packaging tends to drive up the price,” it said.

In March 2015, US-based beauty products manufacturer Coty produced the packaging for Jil Sander’s Ultrasense White fragrance for men, according to a company communiqué. The box was designed with an aesthetically interesting combination of textures: a matte, light grey upper half and a shiny, white base. A silver logo rests between these two parts.

In the same month, Coty also announced the launch of the ten-year-anniversary edition of David Beckham’s Instinct fragrance. The limited edition Instinct Gold Edition was packaged in a sleek, black box with a gold panel and some gold writing. The front of the box features simple, black graphics including the brand’s crest. The box was meant to complement the bottle, which is shaped like a flask and covered in gold designs.

Meanwhile, US-based HLP Klearfold has also been innovating with mixed textures, launching its Duofold packaging in July 2015, combining box-grade plastic with paperboard “to produce a truly distinctive visual package”, said a communiqué. “Integrating these two very different substrates allows for some very unique structural designs and effects, many not possible in paperboard or plastic alone.

It also enables two wholly distinct appearances and textures in a single package,” said Steve Frazier, the company’s President.

A scored rigid film can be used to make multiple plastic carton panels or windows that wrap around edges, or ‘score lines’, resulting in greater visibility than conventional windowed cartons. The film also adds integrity and strength, so that the package can have a larger windowed area than with lightweight window film.

A company note added that multiple decorative techniques are possible, including offset, flexo and silkscreen printing, as well as foil stamping.

Alliora Coffrets produced secondary packaging for Yves Saint Laurent’s Black Opium fragrance

Alliora Coffrets produced secondary packaging for Yves Saint Laurent’s Black Opium fragrance

Securing Chinese spend

Innovation in secondary packaging design is also critical in Asian markets, especially as major manufacturers chase the lucrative Chinese export and tourist market.

Take South Korean personal care product brands, which have striven to incorporate Chinese design elements into their secondary packaging.

“For instance, the It’s Skin brand, famous for its Prestige Creme D’Escargot [snail cream], has its secondary cardboard box decorated bigger than it should be and [with] gold colour everywhere,” says Seongmin (Mike) Sohn, a researcher with the Korea Cosmetic Industry Institute’s (KCII) planning research team.

According to Sohn, the second consideration for South Korean personal care brands’ secondary packaging is minimalism; here following the Korea Food and Drug Administration guidelines designed to reduce packaging waste.

The third consideration is making it very clear that a product is from South Korea, “as the ‘Made in Korea’ label translates into enormous brand power across Asia, including in China”, explains Sohn. 

The secondary packaging of AmorePacific Corporation’s Innisfree is a good example of a heavy focus on all these three considerations. Mirroring its brand slogan ‘Natural benefits from Jeju’ (a South Korean resort island popular with Chinese tourists), Innisfree developed Jeju tangerine paper, using techniques previously developed to make eco-friendly packaging from green tea, seaweed and bean papers.

“The Jeju tangerine paper was developed in collaboration with Hansol Paper, a top paper manufacturer in Korea,” explains Saemi Chung, Global PR at AmorePacific. “The packaging material containing 95% recycled paper and 5% tangerine peel has also been found to be more eco-friendly than the previous packaging materials, while it also made it possible to improve the design thanks to the enhanced quality and stability of the paper material,” she adds.

HLP Klearfold has introduced Duofold packaging, combining box-grade plastic with paperboard for a distinctive visual package

HLP Klearfold has introduced Duofold packaging, combining box-grade plastic with paperboard for a distinctive visual package

Japan: senior shoppers make an impact

Domestic consumers in developed Asian markets are, of course, also key targets and they appreciate quality secondary packaging. In Japan two key sectors of the market are important: wealthy consumers happy to pay higher prices for attractive looking products; and the growing number of older consumers.

Striking secondary packaging has long been associated with the upper end of the Japanese cosmetics market, with costs being too high for the mass-produced segment, but with ‘premiumisation’ increasingly important, quality exterior containers are becoming more common.

“We are seeing premiumisation in the secondary packaging now as a result of the earlier process of premiumisation of products in general,” says Yuiko Mitani, a research analyst at market researcher Euromonitor International. “Japanese consumers chose cosmetics products, in particular, for emotional reasons that go beyond their actual contents and functions. This means that packaging plays an important role in creating that image.”

She stresses this increasingly applies to “secondary boxes, containers and so on to differentiate their products”.

“To communicate that premium image, companies here are using foil-embossed designs and materials that are thicker to the touch,” Mitani adds.

As for Japan’s growing number of older consumers, “companies have steadily been changing [designs] to deliver better readability on secondary packaging”, says Shinji Yamada, spokesperson for Kanebo Cosmetics. “That is both in terms of the font size used on the packaging as well as the information that is printed on it.”

The secondary packaging for the eighth generation of Kanebo’s Evita products, for example, incorporates a larger rose emblem, and the simplified phrase “firm, beautiful skin” in larger letters, Yamada says.

Similarly, a new, clearer font has been introduced for Kanebo’s Coffret D’Or range, with a more straightforward description of the product now displayed as black characters on a white background instead of the gold background used previously.

“This is not just to accommodate people with weak eyesight, but first and foremost to place emphasis on the actual benefit of the product, as anti-ageing and other tangible functions are becoming more important for older consumers,” Yamada says.

Latin America upgrades

Indicating the global nature of the quality secondary packaging trend, cosmetics companies in Latin America are exploring innovations in aesthetics, materials and practical features.

“Today the trend is for secondary packaging not only to hold the product but also to improve or complement the user’s experience,” says Catherine Restrepo Palacios, the Director for Innovation and Development at Peru-based Belcorp, one of the region’s leading cosmetics companies.

One key method in the region is through using secondary packaging that includes instructions and beauty tips either on the packaging interiors or, taking inspiration from the food industry, through labels that peel back.

“In this way the packaging becomes your beauty advisor,” says Restrepo.

Latin American companies are also boosting aesthetics for high value products such as fragrances, using secondary packaging to showcase products through transparent windows and attending to previously neglected aesthetics, such as colours used on packaging interiors.

“We are seeing this trend of how to surprise the consumer at the moment of opening the product with these types of colour changes,” says Restrepo. She highlights two new Belcorp product line releases: Esika Pro make-up, whose exterior packaging includes beauty tips and instructions; and Fascina fragrance, which utilises a high value pink box that complements the colour of the primary packaging to promote a luxury image.

Others are using sustainable materials in secondary packaging to promote their products, according to Angel Acevedo, President of the Peruvian Guild for Cosmetics and Hygiene (COPECOH – Gremio peruano de cosmética e hygiene). “They are following the trend for natural, ecological components,” he says. “Many companies are developing secondary packaging formats and designs that are not in traditional materials, but in materials that are more environmentally friendly.”

Leading the way is Brazilian company Natura Cosméticos, which has built its brand around environmental awareness. Natura’s Ekos product line, for example, uses secondary packaging made from 40% post-consumer recycled fibres, which are also 100% recyclable.

Relevant companies

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