Power through innovation

14 March 2004 (Last Updated March 14th, 2004 18:30)

Hervé Bouix of Estée Lauder Companies highlights the ever-more significant role that innovation plays in the cosmetics field.

Innovation, irrespective of the type of business activity, is paramount to a company that wants to stay powerful. And in the cosmetics sector, packaging innovation is especially critical as competition in Asian countries is increasing more and more.

The only solution for western countries is to innovate continuously to stay ahead of the competitors.

Factors to consider

A packaging solution must first and foremost please the consumer. It is essentially the packaging that determines product value, particularly in the domain of perfume. In the make-up sector, everything moves much faster.

With at least two major launch dates per year to introduce new colour shades (spring/summer and fall/winter), cosmetics demand the most innovations. This is highlighted by the fact that make-up innovation takes up at least 65 per cent of the time for Estée Lauders department of packaging research.

It is also one of the most interesting sectors because of the variety of products and packaging attached: mascara, lip gloss, foundation, lipstick, eye shadow and so on.

Cosmetic packaging must deliver a very high level of quality, in terms of both aesthetics and function. The packaging quality must never be compromised, as it is most vital to the image of a brand. At the same time, this type of packaging is associated with increasingly severe economic constraints.

Packaging innovation must take these constraints into account; this forces designers to keep work simple in an otherwise creative field. For example, producing a make-up case in ten pieces is an easy process, whereas producing the same case in only five pieces demands much more elaborate research in conception.

Packaging innovation continues to advance through new technologies and materials such as Surlyn from DuPont, which has enabled the creation of a number of creations that essentially deliver a high level of aesthetic results associated with new functionalities.

The mass market effect

The improvement in quality and presentation of mass products has considerably diminished the difference between a product sold in a selective market and one distributed in the mass market.

Sometimes, a higher price can be justified for a major innovation that is applied to a selective market, but the novelty of the innovation will often decline a few months later with the introduction of new mass-produced products. In today's economy, consumers are more likely to buy mass products with the same innovative packaging and design as those sold through selective markets.

In the future, packaging innovation will demand more and more from suppliers: attention, promptness, flexibility and shorter deadlines. The companies that know how to provide their clients with such a service level will remain leaders in the cosmetics sector.

A good example of what Estée Lauder Companies tries to accomplish in its packaging - new ventures and special projects department is a lipstick mechanism it developed for a promo lipstick three years ago. This specific system required two pieces less than a regular mechanism, with no difference in quality and aesthetic appeal for the consumer.

This technology is based on a living hinge part that is moulded in one piece with the base and the elevator. This new development allowed the company to decrease the price by 35-40 per cent; from 20 to 14 cents. Estée Lauder and Clinique produce 40-50 million pieces per year, respectively, for the promo lipstick business.

One of the biggest challenges was to qualify the new mechanism for the promo filling line, which runs 7000 pieces per hour. The new concept has been patented and allows different options for the final product.

Case study

Six months ago, Estée Lauder launched a new innovative lip gloss concept for the brand 'Jane Sassaby.' This innovation targets teenagers in the US market and is distributed in the mass market. The new lip gloss packaging consists of a clear plastic pouch with a welded plastic neck and a regular lip gloss flocked applicator. An opening at the top of the packaging allows for it to be hung directly on display.

This simple idea demonstrates how a very basic concept can pioneer an innovative packaging solution, by just combining different technologies together with a low cost. Manufactured in France, the product (including the cap, rod and flocked applicator) is filled on an automatic form-fill-and-seal machine at a final cost of 35 cents.

Author

Hervé Bouix is corporate vice-president of packaging - new ventures and special projects at Estée Lauder Companies Inc.