MONACO — A myriad of next-generation beauty ideas — like compacts that open on command, foundation applicators made of neutrons from Venus and DNA-tailored cosmetics — was the buzz at Luxe Pack, the packaging trade show held here from Oct. 23 through Saturday.

Attending executives maintained that such high-tech innovations are key industry drivers going forward.

"Innovation is the new currency," insisted Marc Rosen, president of Marc Rosen Associates, who chaired a panel discussion called "Innovation, the Ultimate Seduction" during the session. "With a difficult retail climate and a season of lackluster launches, cosmetics companies realize more than ever before that consumers want and expect innovation — in product, design, materials, decorating and new delivery systems."

"From a technical perspective, I don’t believe innovation is a luxury, it’s the ultimate competitive necessity," continued Scott Corzine, chief executive officer of software services provider Design 2 Launch. "The capacity for innovation is the single most important success factor.

"Packaging is the most important first-purchase factor," he continued, adding that it is key to stand out visually in today’s saturated market, in which a product’s life cycle is 80 percent shorter than in 1945.

Speed-to-market is another must as the industry continues introducing products at a breakneck pace.

"Speed-to-market is as important as cost," said Chris Young, president and chief executive officer of plastic closures company C+N.

To shorten development time, for instance, Design 2 Launch developed a software program for packaging designers and manufacturers that provides 3-D renditions of designs that can be modified immediately on-screen.

Another theme discussed at Luxe Pack was luxury’s new complexion.

"Luxury is not about price, but about making the individual feel special," said Laure de la Loge, vice president of marketing for Europe at Dragoco.

To that end, Bath & Body Works created colorful exterior packaging for its personal care products — items that have been historically colorless industry wide, said Annette McEvoy, executive vice president at the firm.

Jonathan Ford, creative partner at Pearl Fisher, said the industry needs to keep in mind the growing "mass affluent" consumer segment. While formerly luxury goods were purchased by a select few, the booming Nineties produced a larger cash-heavy group."How do you sell to the ‘mass affluent’ without losing exclusivity?" he charged.

People also discussed the blurring of boundaries between mass and class products’ packaging.

"There’s a growing concern that, in the mass area, the level of attention to packaging detail has been stepped up," explained Roger Caracappa, senior vice president of global packaging at Estée Lauder.

Caracappa noted that Lauder has ramped up its prestige design focus by establishing a packaging center that works like a library for all employees, where design companies deposit ideas.

Also on the design front, Cosfibel showcased Woodylux, a recyclable material that feels like plastic but can be treated to resemble wood.

In a conference entitled "The Development of Plastics in Luxury Perfumes," the emergence of plastics as a high-quality alternative to glass was analyzed.

There were 4,758 attendees at the recent Luxe Pack session, down 1 percent year-on-year, but representing more companies, according to a spokeswoman.

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