PARIS — Packaging companies are wrapping up the key to the future success of their sector in one word: innovation.

Executives claim that creativity is essential to boosting business and developing the industry. "Innovation is the new currency," said Marc Rosen, president of Marc Rosen Associates in New York. And, while price remains an important issue, "[it] is no longer the only way to compete," continued Rosen, who will lead a panel discussion on innovation later this month at the Luxe Pack trade show in Monaco.

"Innovation is very important," agreed Dieter Bakic, designer and chief of Munich-based Dieter Bakic Enterprises. "We’re part of an emotional business. If there’s no innovation, people won’t buy."

Some companies are earmarking millions to develop a cutting edge, as the packaging sector posts up to 20 percent sales declines this year. Techpack, for one, has invested nearly $2 million in an "innovation center" that will be inaugurated this month in Chevilly Larue, France, that’s meant to be a think tank for packaging marketers and designers. All dollar figures have been converted from the euro at current exchange rates.

"[Innovation] is an area where clients are in need," stated Daniel Rachmanis, chairman of N.Y.-based Techpack America.

Innovation will be a key theme at the Luxe Pack trade show that will be held in Monaco October 23 to 26. Initiatives meant to spur creativity include a gallery where exhibitors will be invited to express their vision of the future of packaging.

"Innovation is something we expect," Rosen noted."It’s the ultimate luxury."

And that goes for stock packaging — pre-prepared containers that beauty manufacturers can buy as is or with some customized embellishments — as well as for finished products.

Increasingly, popular stock packaging can allow for cost savings of up to 50 percent over finished counterparts, packaging executives say, because it doesn’t involve the creation of new molds or tooling equipment that can burden a project with a hefty $60,000 to $100,000. It also cuts down on the time, in some cases by up to three-quarters, required to bring a product to market — a decisive factor when demand for novelty is keen.Value for money is also gaining importance for brands. "Brands are trying to make margins and increase profits," said Bakic.

"Money is tight," agreed Henry de Monclin, artistic director at Ateliers Dinand in Paris. "[Clients] want to make sure they spend their dollars wisely."

That means packaging firms are souping up even their most basic items. Rosen has increased the quality of his stock offerings and TechPack introduces up to three new lines per year.

Not that there’s a one-shot solution across the sector. "There are so many products, each [brand] is looking for its own way," said Federico Restrepo, designer at Paris-based Atelier Federico Restrepo.

However, a few design directions have emerged.

"Transparency is a very strong trend," confirmed Alain Chevassus, president and chief executive officer at Brussels-based Cosfibel. He said that Plexiglas, for one, gives a modern touch to packaging. "We’re still seeing growth in the significance of [clear outer packaging]," confirmed Trevor Hurrell, head of innovation at Techpack. "It’s another way to [make an impact] at point-of-sale."

It seems plastic has become an acceptable material to use in prestige fragrance bottles. "Glass has limitations," said Hurrell. "What can’t be done [with glass] in terms of shape and color can be overcome with plastic."

Form is not everything and manufacturers are seeking to produce more sensory packaging.

"The first thing the customers see on the shelf and the first contact they have with the product is the secondary packaging," said Monclin. That’s why giving it a tactile touch — like Dolce & Gabbana’s Light Blue fragrance’s outer packaging with a velvet finish — is a must, he added.

"It’s satisfactory when all five senses [are engaged]," said Chevassus.

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