By  on December 9, 2005

MONTE CARLO, Monaco — Upping packaging's creativity quotient is key to success these days as market pressures mount.

At least that was the view of executives attending the Luxe Pack trade show, held here Nov. 2-5.

"We come with innovation to avoid being a commodity," said Jean-Paul Imbert, president of BU Make-Up Americas at Alcan Packaging, based in New York. He added that strategy is tantamount today, particularly given increasing competition from Asia.

"It is important for us to bring everything — a competitive solution, not only speed to market and design," said Eric Vaxelaire, director of commercial and marketing at Valois, of Marly-le-Roi, France.

Armed with new application concepts, Alcan — a division of Techpack — showed a variety of novelties, including cosmetics cases designed specifically for on-the-go use.

Created with makeup artist Michel Limongi following in-depth consumer research, the highly compact compacts were devised with applicators that click snugly into place.

For its part, Cosfibel Polysensoriel, of Brussels, presented a wide range of standard boxes meant to fill different marketing needs. Its collapsible packaging comes in materials such as plastic and wood, with foldable frames and see-through windows that can be molded into various shapes. Some variations on the boxes included magnetic closures and transparent sleeves glued to the insides.

The beauty of these, said Nicolas Parrington, director of creation at Cosfibel, is that they are easy to ship, since they flatten. They are also reasonably priced and multipurpose.

"Now, some products have to be packaging, display and promotional as a gift," he explained. "The same product is different depending on the positioning."

Since time is increasingly of the essence, Cosfibel — like many other firms — has created various ways to service its customers. The company can develop individual orders or customize standard packaging.

"Often, we have a specific promotion for Mother's Day and only four weeks to bring a company something. That's just the time needed to customize a product," said Parrington. "This is an increasing activity for us."

On the upswing, as well, is sampling.It was among the novelties Valois was showing. The company's new "Easy" sampler integrates the company's "invisible" technical components for the spray version. Valois also introduced a "cap" iteration, which incorporates a stem-like piece for applying fragrance directly to skin.

Valois' Vaxelaire said that the company's new samples may easily be used as gifts with purchase or even to create a set containing high-end beauty products.

Sampling is a mounting part of the company's business. "We want to develop our sampling activity and be the leader or one of the leaders in sampling in the next three years," he said.

For its part, Ileos, of Nanterre, France, showed what it calls the first thermally molded sample, good for color cosmetics, treatments or solid fragrance, and destined for magazines. It also presented a flat container holding two cotton discs impregnated with product.

Another firm to showcase sampling was Rexam, of Purchase, N.Y. It displayed "soft twist" refillable samples, with spray nozzles that are accessible by twisting the body of a tube, like a lipstick.

"It can be a gift with purchase and doesn't have to be a sample," said the Rexam spokeswoman. "It serves that on-the-go trend."

She and other executives noted a rise in the number of pumps — once solely used for fragrance packaging — being used for skin care and makeup products, due to their hygienic nature.

"The traditions from different segments are crossing from one to another," she said.

"People are much more open to a bigger variety of design," added Andrea Vollmer, marketing director of fragrance and cosmetics at Radolfzell, Germany-based Pfeiffer. Her company, along with Dieter Bakic Design, was presenting the ergonomic Cremosa pump, meant for use with lotion or gel.

Along with pumps, another buzzword at the trade show was Surlyn, a luxury resin from DuPont. Numerous packaging manufacturers were exhibiting items they had made with the material, which allows for thick walls, transparency and sharper angles than glass.

"It has a nice touch and is very smooth," said Didier Bourgine, president of Colombes, France-based Augros' board.The company had used Surlyn to make the cap with a two-piece injection process for Parfums Thierry Mugler's Jardin d'Etoiles scents, for instance.

For its part, DuPont was introducing a new technique for point-of-sale displays using Surlyn and electroluminescent (EL) technology. The lighting system, already employed by high-end car brand Maybach to illuminate its windscreens and ceilings, uses electricity to light up specially treated plastic so that it generates little heat and remains cool to the touch. The idea is to use EL to light up Surlyn fragrance bottles, or other containers, to lure customers to a display or a product.

To respond to an ongoing demand for newness, creativity and changing effects, Saint Gobain Desjonqueres has increasingly been using lacquering techniques, plus it has been gluing materials — such as magnets, other metal and plastic — onto fragrance bottles, according to Catherine Descourtieux, vice president of marketing, perfumery, at the firm, which is based in La Défense, France.

Verreries Pochet et du Courval, of Paris, keeps evolving its spray techniques for packaging as well. According to Lucie Ray, who is charged with the development of hygiene-beauty and standard products at the company, the demand for the technique has been rife, particularly for flankers.

"It is not expensive and has become quite popular," she said.

At this Luxe Pack session, the Monaco Luxe Pack Design Award was given to Ruben Piquer of Spain.

In all, 5,482 visitors attended the show, up almost 2 percent year-on-year. Of those attendees, 54 percent were from outside of France, representing a 1-percentage-point gain over the amount in 2004.

One of the high points of the exhibition was a panel discussion led by Marc Rosen, president of Marc Rosen Associates. It was entitled "Meet the Flankers," and the freewheeling discussion took dead aim at the increasingly prolific and vaguely controversial approach to fragrance marketing. "Today, we are taking flankers out of the closet," Rosen said in his introduction. "Our panel will suppose that if manufacturers actually programmed their eventuality into their five-year marketing strategy and actually designed them in the 'master brand' scenario, that they could create appropriate and new flanker fragrances that are as unique as their press releases say they are."Other panel members included Nicolas Ratut, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Zihr International; Cosimo Policastro, executive vice president of fine fragrances at Givaudan Fragrances; Xaviere Vaisiere, vice president of export sales at Heinzglas, and Karen Young of the Young Group.

The recent session also marked the first time Luxe Pack in Monaco was run under the auspices of Editions Techniques de l'Automobile et de l'Industrie. As reported, ETAI acquired Idice Monaco, Luxe Pack's parent company, in mid-April.

Christophe Czajka, president of ETAI and Luxe Pack, outlined his vision for the show in an interview with WWD.

Among his goals is to make Luxe Pack more international. For instance, Czajka would like the show's non-French attendees ultimately to represent 70 percent of all visitors.

"How do we do this? We get addresses and databases," he said. "It is also by setting up partnerships with some countries."

Czajka added that he intends to include more wine, spirits, tobacco, gourmet food and jewelry brands, plus high-end point-of-sale merchandising, at Luxe Pack.

"This show is a cross-fertilization across industries," he said. "It is what really attracted me to Luxe Pack."

A second focus for Czajka is to grow Luxe Pack in New York. And third, he plans to launch a Shanghai edition in 2007.

"Chinese brands are beginning to develop, and European brands are starting to set up activities in China," he said. "We will showcase luxury products."

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