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The packaging dilemma: Luxury demand vs environmentally friendly

By Andrew McDougall+

27-Nov-2013

Meeting consumer expectations regarding a beauty product and also using the most environmentally friendly packaging possible can lead to a conflict of interest and is the dilemma facing the cosmetics industry.

Whilst in the food and other consumer goods industries, packaging has taken to the sustainable trend, in the beauty market, particularly at the luxury end; it can be more difficult to meet these demands.

That is not to say more cannot be done in the cosmetics arena or that manufacturers are not trying to make, and have made, a change. Luxury beauty can be environmentally friendly, as evidenced by many of the latest packs on show at LuxePack Monaco, Cosmoprof and other events; but the issue is more complex and can be affected by a number of factors.

Luxury dilemma

We spoke with Mintel’s packaging analyst Dr Benjamin Punchard who says that with luxury packaging consumers looking for something a bit ‘special’, their first thought may not be regarding the recyclability or environmental aspects of the packaging.

“We have a hierarchy of needs as to what is important. In beauty, when you are buying a luxury product, you are buying a treat for yourself – you are allowing for it to cost a bit more and your need for it to be environmentally friendly is lower as you are treating yourself,” he tells CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com.

Mass more likely

The problem with luxe when it comes to the environment is that the quality of the materials is sometimes not good enough, and this presents a dilemma to brands too.

However, when you go to the mass, lower-end of the scale, value becomes more important and people look at things differently, and are picking up products for different reason, says Punchard.

“This gives more scope for trends, such as the environment, where people are perhaps a bit more forgiving of packs that are less practical or that have an environmental message that may compromise the look slightly. So, sometimes it can be a positive to move away from the luxe,” he explains.

This environmental trend has seen a move towards manufacturers trying to engage consumers on a more human level, rather than just sticking a recyclable logo on; meaning more information is being provided as to where and how the material was sourced.

Consumer responsibility

Still, when it comes to recyclability this is something that brands have no control over, and a certain amount of responsibility lies with the consumer.

“The consumer has already picked up and purchased the product, and it is down to the consumer to recycle the packaging after use,” says Mintel’s expert.

“Brands can use recyclable materials and label it accordingly but it is the responsibility of the consumer once the product has been purchased.

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