There’s a constantly updating range of options when it comes to materials, shapes and finishes for cartons
In 2010, Germany’s Cartondruck collaborated with artist Sarah Illenberger and car manufacturer smart to create a smart car made from folding boxes and cartons (below). The aim of the exercise, according to Cartondruck, was to showcase the surprising finishing possibilities that folding boxes and cartons can offer when used intelligently.
And although such materials are usually deployed in a rather less spectacular fashion, a stroll around the beauty section of any department store or pharmacy provides ample proof that there is plenty of inspiration being channelled into carton design.
Moreover C&T brands are being offered a constantly updating range of options when it comes to materials, shapes and finishes for secondary packaging.
The economic turmoil of the past few years has forced many companies to reassess their packaging budgets. Combined with increased pressure from authorities to minimise the environmental impact of their operations, this has led to a greater emphasis on improved value among carton suppliers’ clients.
A major area of focus for carton supplier Chesapeake, for instance, is value engineering, a method of improving value through an examination of function, which is commonly implemented by improving function or reducing cost.
“Value engineering is something that we are continually working on with our customers,” says Janet Shipton, divisional design and development director, Chesapeake Creative. “This normally encompasses both sustainability and economic developments and improvements.”
However, Shipton notes that brands still want maximum aesthetic appeal, regardless of recessionary pressures. “Aesthetically I still believe texture and beautiful simplicity is the key in the premium end of the market,” she says. “This can be achieved by new materials, finishes and effects, and graceful, clever construction design.”
Simply Cartons’ Lisa Hodson agrees: “Different varnishes can create added value by creating different effects and our customers want to create a point of difference in-store. There have also been a lot more people asking for embossing and for shapes. We’ve even been asked to print on the reversible side of the card in order to create a more textured effect.”
According to Jeremy Cohen, president and ceo of Knoll Printing & Packaging, two standout trends are for soft-touch – whereby a special coating is applied to the paperboard giving the material an invitingly tactile, almost rubbery texture – and shaped boxes.
For Christmas 2010, the company worked with L’Oréal to create several shaped boxes for Victor & Rolf’s Flowerbomb fragrance gift sets. Referring to the 52-part double tier box, Cohen tells SPC: “There were certain technical aspects of the design shape which posed a challenge. For example, to get the artwork to meet up along the join we had to distort the artwork slightly.”
But the results of such efforts are tangible. The gift sets retailed in Bloomingdales stores in the US where they sold out in just three days.
Cartons represent a third of all paper and board packaging and make up 15% of packaging in general, and most paperboard suppliers (often sawmills) will offer a variety of products of different thickness and quality.
Holmen Group’s Iggesund Paperboard has experienced a recent rise in demand for its Invercote product, marketed as a multi-ply, fully bleached quality paperboard. “Purchasing managers are having to give in to the desires of their designers and marketers,” says Iggesund public relations manager, Staffan Sjöberg. “A lot of businesses that switched to using simpler materials during the crisis year have come back to Invercote again.”
According to Sjöberg, this demonstrates a general desire among companies to invest in quality packaging again. And for beauty manufacturers looking to do just that, several innovative new packaging materials and concepts are now lined up alongside the more traditional fare.
New from MeadWestvaco (MWV), for example, is a tear-resistant paperboard packaging solution, which spares companies the choice between security and consumer experience. While the product cannot be ripped open in store, MWV says it can be opened safely once purchased using a pair of household scissors.
Meanwhile, Chesapeake recently launched a paperboard concept called Impressions, designed to provide a three-dimensional quality to packaging. Created using a special low energy process, Impressions may be moulded into a wide variety of shapes.
“Impressions is special because it has both functional and aesthetic qualities,” enthuses Chesapeake’s Shipton. “We are currently developing functionally innovative pack formats to hold and dispense portioned liquid and cream products, but we also recognise its potential for creating aesthetically stunning packs.”
For brands looking to reduce their transport costs and carbon footprint, without compromising on luxury aesthetics, Cosfibel’s Ultralight Box is made from cellular board, which is at once thick and very lightweight.
Windows and transparent features are a useful tool when it comes to boxing beauty products, as the customer can see exactly what it is that they’re purchasing. But for those looking to maximise visibility, HLP Klearfold offers transparent PVC folding boxes with high ‘wearability’ – meaning they are more resistant to scratching than cheaper variants. The PVC also undergoes anti-static treatment to stop abrasive dust particles affecting the material’s clarity.
With trailblazer Lush dispensing with excess packaging altogether, secondary and tertiary packaging may seem somewhat out of sync with the current trend towards sustainability. However, environmentally conscious brands still have ample opportunity to source attractive cartons that also sit well with their ‘green’ positioning and suppliers are increasingly able to meet their customers’ rising standards in this area.
Sustainability is a cradle-to-grave, or even a cradle-to-cradle issue and when it comes to cartons many manufacturers want to ensure that their supplier’s commitment equals their own, even as far back down the supply line as forestry.
“Some of the really heavyweight players in the industry have sent delegations to us to see, learn about and discuss our sustainability work,” Iggesund’s Sjöberg tells SPC. “In those discussions it is very obvious that sustainability is an issue that C&T takes seriously and that there is a strong pressure from the market for sustainability.
“Currently we are in the process of investing t240m in a new recovery boiler that will enable us to eliminate all fossil carbon emissions from our production process and also to be completely self-sufficient in electricity.”
Some beauty companies are also adopting a ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ policy.
“I think the reusability of packaging is the most important part of the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra. Reduction is good, but you can only reduce packaging so far and if we were to just use recycled materials then obviously we’d eventually run out. But reusability is very important and sometimes gets overlooked,” comments James Williams, managing director of Curtis Packaging, which recently designed an environmentally friendly reversible box for organic brand Neal’s Yard for Christmas 2010.
“The box we created for Neal’s Yard – called the Inside Out Box – is essentially for Christmas gifting,” Williams explains. “With Christmas presents people tend to buy a gift then take it home and wrap it, which increases the amount of packaging used. The Inside Out Box can be opened, unfolded then folded the other way so that it looks like a gift and eliminates the need for wrapping paper. It can also be used as a trinket box once the products have been used.”
For Cohen (Knoll) an added benefit of encouraging consumers to reuse containers is that it increases brand awareness. “It’s a constant advert on someone’s bedside table,” he notes. Although he adds that it is up to the brand and its supplier to provide an incentive for consumers to keep old containers, stating: “If you give them [consumers] something that’s worthy of keeping then they will keep it.”
In addition to a sustainable substrate, beauty brands need to take into account the environmental impact of factors like ink and coatings. Curtis, says Williams, encourages its customers to use FSC certified paperboard and to switch from spirit-based varnishes to water-based ones and oil-based inks, which emit 20-40% volatile organic compounds during the drying process, to soya-based inks, which emit just 2-4%.
The company is also carbon neutral and recently switched from traditional, chemical-based plate making – which Williams says not only smells awful but also contributes to a large volume of chemical waste – to laser etching.
“It’s about having, as much as you can, a complete loop,” says Williams. “The carton is just the end product and there’s a whole system before and after.”
However, when it comes to the beauty industry, cartons made from recycled board aren’t necessarily a wise option, according to Williams.
“Recycled board and paper has its place but the downside is that the print surface isn’t as good as virgin paperboard,” he tells SPC. “Therefore it’s not ideal for the cosmetics industry, where the look of the packaging is very important, as it is difficult to create the same print quality. Also, because of the differing fibre lengths, recycled material doesn’t have the strength of virgin paperboard.”
However Williams does concede that there are some applications, such as shelf-ready packaging, for which recycled materials are ideal.
EcoPak from Chicago Paper Tube & Can Co offers biodegradable, recyclable paperboard packaging for directly packaging butters and balms
“I do think that people tend to get hung up on recycling and the idea that cutting down trees is bad,” he adds. “But European forestry is so well managed. I visited Sweden recently and a lot of the companies there have been harvesting forests sustainably for over a hundred years, only nowadays there is more regulation and these practices are being overseen by organisations such as the FSC.”
Sjöberg agrees. “The [environmental] debate has risen to a much higher level and the more enlightened participants have now understood that recycled fibre is not the perfect solution for all applications all the time,” he comments. “It is possible to make a sound environmental choice and also choose a first class packaging paperboard.”
But for those brands determined to tread the recycled route, Jomo Thermomolding provides an interesting alternative to paperboard cartons. The company ‘upcycles’ scrap tyres and PE or EVA insoles used in sports shoes to create its EcoFoamShoes and EcoFoamTire materials, which are then used to form packaging supplied to several industries including C&T.
In addition, Jomo says it is the only company in the world which takes waste PE or EVA insoles from shoes and grinds them with textile scraps to create a packaging material, marketed as EcoEVA.
So whether you’re sourcing something elaborate for Christmas 2011, hoping to go greener or bringing together a bit of both, chances are there will be a box that fits.