Packaging, a key vector of innovation

philippe-thuvienPhilippe Thuvien
Packaging & Development Director

Packaging and design are now key vectors of innovation in the world of cosmetics, especially in the current global economic environment which calls for faster innovation processes, in line with the macro-economic trends. Cosmetic companies must innovate more and faster in order to remain competitive.

The world of cosmetics is facing increasingly aggressive competition. Attractive designs are a must-have to differentiate new products. Our sector is also paying more and more attention to costs. With millions of new consumers, emerging markets are clearly beginning to see their incomes increase, allowing them to buy cosmetic products, provided that they are adapted to their needs, culture and purchasing power.

However, because of the economic downturn, many consumers in developed countries are reducing their expenses. Packaging should thus allow men and women to purchase cosmetics by offering products adapted to their market. For example we sell a Garnier shampoo in a 400 ml bottle in North America, in a 250 ml bottle in Europe and in 2.5 ml packs in India, in the Philippines or in some South American countries.

Offering even more efficient packaging

Our consumers’ safety is a requirement. It is therefore non-negotiable. But beyond this prerequisite, they expect to our products have a true added value, i.e. more visible and measurable results and flawless quality.

In order to achieve this, we are improving the ergonomics of our products by developing new features such as, for example, a greater comfort of use or a more practical formula dispenser. Olia for example provides ammonia-free hair coloring in a bottle which is both elegant and easy to handle.

Other packages enhance the anti-fatigue effect of the formula – as in Mennen Roll-On Eyes with an icy massage effect – or thoroughly clense the skin, like the ‘Perfect Clean’ of L’Oréal Paris and its massage-like applicator.

Packaging also makes it possible to create mixes by coupling formulas to a diagnosis in order to customize the treatment – as in Kerastase Fusio-Dose.

Meeting sustainable development issues

Another concern of cosmetic brands: meeting sustainable development issues with more environmentally friendly materials that preserve fossil resources and reduce energy consumption, like Lancôme polyethylene tubing, Kiehl’s PET bottles and Biotherm recycled glass jars.

On the whole our materials will be the same tomorrow as those we use today, with one difference: they will no longer come from fossil energy sources but from bio-renewable, and/or recycled resources. We must also make sure that our folding cartons and paperboards (FSC or PEFC certified) are sourced in a responsible manner.

In addition we have introduced a policy to reduce primary and secondary packaging, for packaging used between our suppliers and our plants as well as for our products themselves. And we have committed ourselves to reducing the waste generated by our finished products by 50% between 2005 and 2015, alongside our water consumption and CO² emissions.

The L’Oreal plant in Jababeka (Indonesia) is, for example, LEED certified, an American standard that defines strict rules for sustainable building design (in particular, rational use of water and energy). Other Group production sites (for example, Settimo Torinese in Italy, Libramont in Belgium) have set the objective of rapidly reaching zero carbon footprint.

The cosmetics industry should also anticipate regulatory and media expectations. For example, we must focus on the ‘fair’ protection of our formulas. The quality of raw materials, the formulation, the manufacturing and packing processes and the packaging fall within this scope.

Finding the most suitable machines for each of our needs

We adapt our manufacturing processes and our packaging machines in order to address these challenges. Our objective is to find the suitable materials for our performance, quality and reliability requirements. On basic products and high volumes, this involves having powerful machines in terms of speed with very few adjustment points to make the process more reliable. On the other hand, for complex and/or high value-added products, the focus will be on flexibility in order to better respond to the brand requirements in terms of innovation and to adapt to several products.

The more we optimize our deadlines for making the machines and tools available, the better we are in regards to reactivity and capacity to produce at the best possible cost. And, because employee safety is a priority for L’Oréal, each investment is subject to a safety-risk assessment.

Traceability, a key factor

The traceability of our products is regulatory. It is a key factor to fight against counterfeiting and the parallel market, and thus to protect our consumers from purchasing counterfeited cosmetic products.

In addition, the interactive and multimedia packaging features are great vectors of innovation and differentiation. We keep a close watch on coding and authentication solutions in order to apply those most suited to our needs:
· Securing our products: always staying ahead of counterfeiters,
· Globalizing information and data exchanges by using the potential of new technologies (integrated electronics, miniaturization….),
· Interactivity with consumers: offering them more services and information, once again through new technologies (Smartphone and QR code…).
Smart packaging makes it possible – beyond its primary function which is to protect, transport and preserve the product – to inform and advise the consumer, for example on colors (make-up and hair coloring). It is also a promotion and advertising support for the brand. The challenge is to integrate the new communication channels (QR codes, RFID, conductive ink…) in our traditional media: folding cartons, labels and sleeve, with the constraints of monitoring retraction for the latter.

Over 70 packaging patents filed each year

In order to answer all these expectations and constraints, brands must innovate continuously. Packaging is therefore more than ever a key vector of this innovation. L’Oreal thus strongly invests in research and innovation, and, for example, filed more than 600 patents in 2012 (including over 70 packaging patents). Because it is through innovation that the Group will manage to achieve the objective it has set: winning one billion new consumers within ten years.

L’Oreal’s Research & Innovation and Marketing departments are responsible for developing products combining high levels of quality and performance. We have just opened a new research center in India, and will soon open another in Brazil to develop products corresponding to local expectations.

A collaborative innovation

In order to reinforce the partnership with its suppliers and accelerate packaging innovation, L’Oreal, in addition, launched the Cherry Pack operation three years ago. It enables our suppliers’ packaging innovations to enter ‘at the heart’ of the company while offering brands throughout the Group’s divisions either ‘ready to use’ or more prospective innovations.

The process can be compared to an internal incubator, within which the selected suppliers share their expertise and invent ways of delivering new formulas, creating appealing looks and new ways of consuming the product. As a result L’Oreal creates closer links with its suppliers and accelerates the innovation process.

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