Innovation vs reality, the three obstacles to overcome
In the luxury packaging sector, innovation has accelerated unquestionably over recent years. The real revolution: the arrival of eco-design packaging thanks to, in particular, new materials with less environmental impact, for products that are 100% responsible. However, this desire to innovate often comes up against certain obstacles, which are just waiting to be overcome…
The cost of innovation tested against budgets
In the luxury packaging sector, innovation comes at a cost. Developing new materials requires specific machinery with significant tooling costs, particularly the cost of moulds. Thus, the cost price of the product per unit increases.
Let’s take a look at an example: for the same volume of products, the tooling cost of a plastic insert is $100 compared to $2,000 for an insert made using sugarcane paste. As another example, the cost of a bag with biodegradable PLA bioplastic (polylactic acid) lamination is double that of a bag with non-recyclable plastic lamination.
Result: 90% of luxury packaging customers could not afford this eco-friendly alternative.
“Cost is now the greatest obstacle in this environmentally-friendly movement. Incidentally, it is mainly the big names in luxury that are pushing the bounds of innovation. But the good news is that if they are hitting the target, the competitors of these major brands will choose to develop it, gradually making it less expensive and more accessible on the smallest of budgets.” says Romain Lacombe, Sales Director at Parcome Paris.
Another positive point is that alternative and financially more accessible solutions exist for sustainable packaging. “At Parcome, we’ve spent a number of years developing packaging made of FSC-certified paper from sustainably-managed forests. The increase in price is only 5% and brands can achieve 100% responsible packaging about which to communicate” explains Matthieu Pierret, Purchasing Manager at Parcome Paris.
An interim solution for businesses on smaller budgets would therefore be to return to the basics of sustainable development: recycled and recyclable materials, which are more traditional but clean, eco-friendly and more accessible financially speaking.
Innovative, responsible and functional packaging?
While some innovative materials respond to the trend towards a return to natural materials and eco-responsibility, they still need to go through the knock-out phase of the drop test. Because the goal is to successfully fulfil the primary function of packaging: to protect the product while being easy to handle, foldable and printable, so it can be adapted to the packaging’s design.
“The goal is to stop plastic, of course, but historically this material has been useful thanks to its robustness and protective qualities. A 100% sustainable bag, made from non-laminated paper, is now more fragile and can rip. Inserts made from paper rather than plastic are less resistant and therefore less effective at protecting the product. But research is developing and progress is rapid! We’re on the right track.” says Romain Lacombe.
Indeed, PLA bioplastic, which, just a few years ago was still too dense to achieve the properties of plastic in the field of packaging, is now lighter, easier to handle and therefore perfect for luxury packaging.
When aesthetics rub up against the ideals of sustainable development
The last criteria, but not the least, above all in the luxury sector, is how the packaging looks.
Eco-responsible packaging still suffers from a negative image. Recycled paper will thereby not have the same whiteness and will not be as smooth as traditional paper. Equally, the windows allowing you to see the product lose transparency when you replace the plastic with its environmentally-friendly substitute, rPET plastic. Paper fasteners create a less luxurious image than traditional ribbons made from satin or cotton etc.
In other words, the luxury industry is now suffering from a dilemma: it wants to innovate in its sustainable development strategy, while maintaining its traditional attributes of aestheticism and functionality.
However, thanks to the green marketing they’re implementing and the favourable and growing response by customers, brands now seem to be progressing towards compromise. Let’s stay positive: the general desire for more eco-design is such that change promises to take shape quickly.