Packaging companies cannot afford to skimp on innovation says Rexam

By Katie Nichol

- Last updated on GMT

Packaging companies cannot afford to skimp on innovation says Rexam

Related tags Technology Ecological footprint Innovation

Companies in the cosmetics packaging industry should not cut corners when it comes to innovation, according to Rexam’s director of new product development for make-up, Gerald Martines.

“Unless you have a business model where you aim to be the cheapest, innovation is key,” ​he told

While the economic downturn has prompted several companies to cut back on R&D budgets in an attempt to make cost savings, for Martines, innovation is not an area in which investment can be skimped on.

“If there is a way to innovate while keeping costs down, we haven’t found it,”​ he said. “Innovation requires resources.”

Although the innovation process begins with consumer insight as packaging is designed for the end-user, ultimately, as consumers can only relate to what they know, packaging companies need to look to other sources, according to Martines.

“Consumer insights certainly represent one source of inspiration for innovation, but this input must be augmented by the expertise of industry professionals, who really know the market and can anticipate future trends, such as designers, marketing and technical experts and stylists,” ​he said.

New formulations impact on entire supply chain

As cosmetics formulations evolve to become more active, such as colour-cosmetics that boast anti-ageing, sun protection or moisturising properties, the associated challenges of how to package new formulas impact on the entire supply chain, according to Martines.

For example, lipstick is traditionally composed of 70-80 percent inert material (wax) and a small amount of pigment. As formulations are becoming more complex, they are becoming less rigid as more active ingredients necessitate the removal of some of the structural element, he explained.

“This means a very big investment industrially, as new mechanisms need to be developed and filling systems have to change.”

Boundaries are becoming blurred

Martines predicts that airless packaging, commonly used in skin care as it helps to prevent formulations becoming contaminated, will move into colour cosmetics in the future.

Additionally, as make-up categories blur, he said, hybrid products such as mascara pens and compacts dispensing liquid formulations will also been seen.

The more elaborate technologies that will be required to create such packaging means the innovations of the future will favour companies with more than one technology at their disposal, he predicted.

How to reconcile sustainability and consumerism

Sustainability has become an industry buzzword, and while it is easy to recognize the need for environmentally-friendly packaging, said Martines, the hard part is how to achieve this.

“This is complex; it’s not black and white, there is not an easy recipe for sustainability,” ​he said.

Recycling still poses problems

Using recycled and recyclable packaging is a common way for companies to reduce their carbon footprint, and Martines predicts the future will see more post consumer recycled (PCR) materials incorporated into packaging.

However, although a packaging material may be seen as recyclable in the eyes of the consumer, it is not necessarily the best option for reducing a company’s environmental footprint.

“For the public, glass is the ideal material as it is recyclable, but the energy required to recycle it is enormous,” ​he said by way of example.

Sustainable claims and the future

“There is a lot of confusion around sustainability claims and the public can be misled,” ​states Martines. “It will take more time for this to sort out.”

In cosmetics packaging, a wide variety of materials are necessary in order fulfill requirements such as strength, transparency, resistance and ability to hold a particular formulation, he said, which represent challenges to recycling.

“Even in the most basic lipstick, there are four or five materials, how are you going to do this?” ​asked Martines, underlining that there is plenty of room for innovation when it comes to sustainability.

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