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A Responsible Path to Luxury

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While the overriding trend in most industry sectors over the last few years has been to reduce the amount of packaging used, one group of companies has eschewed this new convention. For purveyors of luxury goods the mantra appears to be "packaging sells".

They can't afford to cut corners and skimp on materials or finishing embellishments. The packaging of a luxury item is almost as important as the product it's protecting or showcasing. That's why during the recession, while other industries looked to cut costs, luxury goods companies continued to pump cash into creating ever more eye-catching packs.

But is this tried and tested approach changing? There is growing consumer pressure on luxury goods providers to reduce the environmental impact of their packaging and offer more clarity around where materials are sourced. What are the luxury brands doing in response to these calls and is there such a thing as environmentally responsible luxury packaging?

In the luxury goods sector, arguably more than in any other sector, packaging has an important role to play in persuading the consumer to part with their money, with consumers generally willing to spend more on an item if the packaging screams 'luxury', says Sharon Crayton, head of marketing at Ardagh Group.

"During research for its report on The Future of Packaging to 2019, Smithers Pira found that the packaging of a product is part of the brand's image, thus it is important for the packaging to correctly represent the premium value of the product it is encompassing," says Crayton. To 2019, Smithers Pira forecasts that the luxury packaging market will grow by 4.4% reaching $17.6bn, and consumption will reach 9.9bn tonnes with growth of 3.1%.

If these projections are accurate the pressure placed on luxury goods manufacturers to reduce the impact of their packaging will continue to grow, leaving companies faced with addressing the difficult question of how can you design packs in a way that helps them be sustainable, but continues to look luxurious?

Christiana Mitchell, senior graphic designer at Sheridan&Co, says that there are a number of luxury brands out there that have made major progress towards becoming greener. "Other brands have been following suit, particularly due to the regulation that passed in 2012 requiring European Union companies with a turnover in excess of £2m and using over 50 tonnes each year of packaging to comply with the EU Producer Responsibility Obligations by making a proportion of their packaging recyclable, compostable or reusable," says Malham. "As a result, developing a luxury packaging solution that is sustainable is not really an option; it is a requirement, and packaging manufacturers are developing ways to make this possible."

"Manufacturers are opting for more environmentally friendly inks and materials such as paperboard and glass instead of plastics, are reducing the environmental impact of the manufacturing process and are using light-weighting techniques," she explains.

Mitchell concurs, adding that there are a number of further techniques that luxury brands looking to go greener could adopt, with the most effective approach being simply to reduce the amount of material used in the packaging.

Some brands are also using their sustainable packs to create a point of difference in the marketplace, says Susan Wilson, luxury packaging manager at James Cropper.

"More and more brands are going further than seeking formal certification and are thinking hard about how their packaging can differentiate though ethical sourcing, going as far as to reuse non-pulp waste products from their own production methods in their packaging," explains James Cropper's Wilson. "For example, our cocoa shell paper is made with a percentage of ground cocoa shells, repurposing a primary waste product of the chocolate industry - in this case major cocoa trader Barry Callebaut - to then wrap around confectionery products and other items. Brands are increasingly recognising sustainability not only as a responsibility, but potentially a great story to share with their customers."

This story telling process only serves to strengthen the relationship between a brand and a consumer - especially in the current day and age where consumers have an increasingly high awareness of product lifecycles.

"They don't just look at the end product in isolation," explains Zoe Brimelow, brand director at polythene packaging specialist Duo. "They want to understand where it has been produced, if it has been ethically produced and the values of the company that has produced the product, and only then will they form an opinion on a product's sustainability.

The packaging a product arrives in is all part of a product's lifecycle and has a significant impact on the product's sustainability and green credentials. Therefore a luxury brand can only strengthen its relationship with consumers by improving its green credentials and making a commitment to sourcing locally."

So perhaps it's likely that consumers will start hearing some loud messages about sustainability emanating from luxury goods manufacturers any time soon.

This article was featured on Packaging News


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