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Business Is Rebounding for Beauty’s Luxury Packaging Suppliers

Despite ongoing headwinds, some tailwinds are helping push companies’ sales past 2019 levels.

MONTE CARLO, Monaco — Business is back for luxury fragrance and cosmetics packaging suppliers.

That was an important takeaway from the recent edition of Luxe Pack Monaco, the premium packaging trade show that ran from Oct. 3 to 5, in Monte Carlo, Monaco. It shined a spotlight on eco-design and sustainable solutions, including single-material, refillable and wholly recycled options.

The aisles were bustling in the warren-like Grimaldi Forum, where the trade show was located perched above the lapping Mediterranean waters. There, visitors sought sustainable solutions and new suppliers amid today’s supply chain disruptions.

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High-end packaging suppliers are being impacted by both headwinds and tailwinds, but despite that, many say their business has already returned to or surpassed pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.

“We suffered during COVID-19 like everybody, but the last fiscal year we finished in April was the best year we’ve ever done, in terms of revenue, margin — everything,” said Denis Maurin, global president of sales and innovation at HCT.

“There were a lot of retailers replenishing inventory,” he said, naming one growth driver.

“We went into this fiscal year thinking there might not be the same quantity of reorders, which is true — it’s less — but we have a lot of new projects,” Maurin continued. “In the end, we’re matching the same results as last year this year. We are on track to do another record year.”

Patrick Bousquel, Aptar Beauty + Home’s managing director skin care and color cosmetics EMEA, pointed to how the prestige fragrance and makeup categories are booming once again.

“Makeup is also recovering without big launches, with recurrent business,” he continued.

Aptar’s sales rebounded to 2019 levels in 2021, and the group’s sales linked to fine fragrance surpassed that.

“Nevertheless, the environment is still very uncertain for next year for sure,” Bousquel said.

Some suppliers’ business is benefiting from clients seeking local manufacturing.

“It becomes more and more difficult to ship goods from all over the world,” said Dominic Bakic, chief executive officer of Bakic Packaging, where business equaled 2019 levels earlier this year.

“Now after COVID-19, sustainability is so important,” he continued. “Companies are calculating their CO2 footprint, life-cycle analysis and report that to their boards or stakeholders.”

Hurdles facing suppliers, meanwhile, include the energy crisis due to the war in Ukraine, inflation and pricing hikes.

Glass availability is a key concern for many, but creative solutions are being found.

Over the past two years, Estal, for instance, has been making some glass bottles from 100 percent post-consumer recycled glass.

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“We accept all kinds of aesthetic defects given by the production,” explained Jan Garcia, commercial director at Estal, citing as an example little bubbles that are sometimes trapped in glass.

To test the concept’s viability, the company manufactured 200,000 bottles, and those were sold out in 15 days.

“Now, we are doing productions of maybe 8 [million] to 10 million bottles per year,” he continued.

The cost of creating such bottles is in line with that of traditional bottles, save for the extra expenditure of collecting the glass for recycling.

In another a bid to make luxury glass bottles more sustainable for the beauty industry, Estal took a cue from its know-how in the world of wines and spirits. The bottles in its Sustainable Bubbles collection are 35 percent lighter than traditional flacons, thanks to the pushed-up, hollowed-out section at their base. 

At Luxe Pack Monaco, Aptar debuted its Airless Glass solution, with a snap-on pump allowing for the reduced-weight bottle be fully recyclable.

Aptar’s Airless Glass bottles.

Among its showcased innovations, Bakic presented its lightweight, 250-ml. Smoothie bottle in HTP. Thanks to bionic design and an extrusion technique, it uses about half the material of similarly sized conventional bottles. The Smoothie model is totally recyclable, as well.

Edelmann Group has been using different cardboard stock. At the trade show, it presented outer packaging of recycled cardboard now used for Nivea’s Eco Refill hand soap. A consumer buys an empty dispenser and a tablet, which can be mixed with water in the bottle to create liquid soap. Part of the cardboard sleeve holds the tablets, too.

Sustainably sourced paper company Gmund hung a large poster over its stand touting the group’s name and a tagline, in big white letters, reading: “F–k Plastic.”

“We’ve never used plastic,” said Herbert Eibach, managing director of Gmund. “We want to be clean and lean, and to make clear that we are the ones that are honestly eco-friendly in what we do in paper manufacturing.”

Gmund has experienced a strong rise in customer demand from the world over, with an overall on-year sales increase of about 25 percent.

The company’s paper is being used in the packaging of perfumes and antiaging creams, as well as across the industries of spirits and foods, especially chocolate.

“What is new is that we are Cradle to Cradle Certified,” said Eibach, adding Gmund is the only company making paper wholly out of hemp, grass, coffee or 100 percent post-consumer recycling in colors.

Innovation is the name of the game for all packaging suppliers today. So for its second successive year, Luxe Pack Monaco presented a selection of new designs created under the Make a Mark creative platform. That was led by Estal, Avery Dennison and Kurz, with an aim of accelerating innovation and sustainable solutions in luxury packaging design.

Twenty designers were asked to reinvent the future of such packaging in the drinks, wines and spirits, and beauty and fragrance categories. Estal, for one, conjured up Vannity, billed to be the first phygital fragrance.

Luxe Pack Monaco’s attendee count swelled this session, echoing packaging suppliers’ customer demand. Footfall at the trade show rose 20 percent versus the 2021 edition to 9,430 people. Of those, 53 percent hailed from outside of France, including the U.S., the U.K., Italy and the Middle East, with the level of international visitors gaining 5 percentage points year-over-year.

Attendee count overall was up 5 percent against 2019. (No Luxe Pack Monaco event was held in 2020, due to the health crisis.)

The 2022 session had 450 exhibitors present.