MONACO — If a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, beauty executives are hoping a healthy dose of luxury will help heal the ailing fragrance market.

That was among topics discussed at Luxe Pack Monaco, the high-end packaging trade show held here Oct. 20-23. Packaging designer Marc Rosen hosted a seminar during the show entitled “Dispensing luxury…The packaging dose,” which focused on how design can up a product’s luxury quotient.

“I’m not a doctor, but I know how to cure flat sales,” quipped Rosen, who noted that packaging is of paramount importance in helping to drive consumer interest in the category. “We need to seduce consumers with luxury packaging — and the competitive edge is based on creativity.”

That’s a point that Veronique Gabai, senior vice president and general manager for Estée Lauder’s designer fragrances division, seconds. “The time is long gone when it was enough to put a logo on a product for it to be a luxury [item],” said Gabai.

She added that, since 9/11, consumer sentiment has become polarized: On one hand, people are willing to pay high prices for products that mean a lot to them, while on the other, they’ll refuse to pay premium for goods that don’t have a deeper meaning. To wit, the beauty industry will have to decide if its products should be marketed as luxury or commodity items.

“We’re going to have to pick our battle,” Gabai said.

Daniel Rachmanis, president of fine fragrances, Americas, for Firmenich, agreed that no-man’s-land is no place to be right now, adding that other industries have managed to trade up and create a luxury positioning for their products. He pointed to the vodka market, and particularly to the Belvedere and Grey Goose brands, which have carved out a luxury niche for themselves.

“These brands have transformed vodka from a flavorless liquid to a product with as much cachet as single-malt scotch,” he said.

Such an approach is a result of a shifting consumer demand, Rachmanis added.

“The market is going through a real revolution, and the consumer is the main protagonist,” he said. “We’ve gone from an offer-driven model to a demand-driven model.”Jill Hill, managing director and owner of Aspects Beauty, a U.K.-based distributor, focused on just what consumers and retailers want from beauty products.

“A little luxury goes a long way,” she said, noting that overelaborate bottle designs or packaging created to recall objects such as champagne glasses can be overpowering. “I believe simplicity can be luxurious,” she added.

Tom Butkiewicz, president of Zorbit Resources, noted that luxury can be in the details. He pointed to Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male and Classique bottles, which are frequently redecorated and updated. He also said the bottle created for Christian Dior’s Pure Poison, which uses a technique that treats both the interior and exterior of flacons to give an opalescent sheen, brings something new to consumers. “There were 263 new fragrances introduced last year,” he said. “Adding the perfect dose of luxury [in packaging] allows marketers to stand alone at the counter.”

Butkiewicz added that the money spent by manufacturers on packaging details such as polished caps and weighty flacons — not to mention subtly updating classic packaging every so often — is an investment much appreciated by customers.

Indeed, heftiness in fragrance packaging is a trend that’s set to continue, according to Julien Duruz, account executive at Saint-Gobain Desjonqueres. He pointed to products such as Gucci’s Eau de Parfum and Prada’s signature scent as items that packed on the pounds.

“When you think weight, you think luxury,” he said, adding that decoration on glass is also a hot trend.

“I think we’ll see more and more pieces added to bottles,” said Catherine Descourtieux, marketing director at the firm, who noted that touches such as the metal plaque featured on the Prada bottle will become increasingly important in packaging. She said pearl and nacre finishes also will be strong trends going forward.

Jean Jerome Grassi, manager of Mandalay Design, a producer of gift-with-purchase items and packaging, said metal is an increasingly popular material.

“[Manufacturers] like to use packaging that’s reusable, and they’re willing to pay more for that,” he said. “If the brand’s name is on the packaging, it [continues] to remind the consumer of the brand; it’s at-home advertising.”The four-day show hosted 320 exhibitors and welcomed 5,390 visitors, up from 5,307 last year.

Show organizer Pierre-Yves Maisonneuve noted that the show’s sister events — Luxe Pack New York and Luxe Pack São Paulo (Brazil) — are part of an effort to take a global view of the industry.

“All our efforts are going into internationalizing the event,” he said.

And those efforts seem to be paying off. At the Monaco show, international visitors represented 53 percent of attendees, overtaking the French visitor contingent for the first time.

— Brid Costello and J.N.

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