Packaging:Class Act

The constant demand for innovative luxury papers and packaging is now matched by a concern that products should be eco-friendly. Fiona Keating looks at new developments in this market

First impressions count in prestige markets. It is perhaps unsurprising that an estimated 70 per cent of consumers buying luxury goods only select products at the point of purchase.

The successful marketing of luxury items is therefore dependent on attractive, high-quality packaging to portray a desirable brand image.

From a designer’s perspective, this market offers greater freedom because it is subject to fewer constraints than other sectors.

Consumers want luxury goods, sumptuously wrapped and designers are called upon to devise ever more imaginative treatments.

However, appearance is not the only consideration as companies need to weigh up the environmental merits of different forms of packaging. For example, which is the Greener substance – plastic or card?

Encouragingly, there are some excellent examples around of where companies have reduced the materials used in their packaging design, and created new, innovative solutions in a cost-effective way.


Fashion house Kenzo chose 3D Dimensions, a new luxury packaging range from Arjo Wiggins Fine Papers, for its signature line of perfume, which is distributed through duty-free shops and prestigious retail outlets worldwide. The boxes needed to be seductive with strong on-shelf appeal to reflect the quality of the Kenzo name and the brand values of the new scent

When Arjo Wiggins approached Kenzo, stringent specifications were set down by the fashion house. The paper had to be a pure, high white, so that the perfume’s signature colour could be printed without varying, with a texture that combined a soft touch with a rough finish. The paper also had to perform well when converting, from the folding to the printing and embossing. Finally pricing needed to be cost-effective, offering value for money in a high-calibre product.

Samples were chosen by a consultant, submitted to the brand’s marketing manager and subsequently trialed by the converter. Following the test and approval processes, Arjo Wiggins went about refining the special paper, making an adaptation of the 3D Dimensions collection. The final papers are 280 gsm and 350 gsm, in white with a plain finish and a soft feel.

According to David Doorbar, Arjo Wiggins business manager of special products, “Kenzo has a reputation to maintain of quality, innovation and luxury – its perfume packaging is a continuation of its brand values and the product which it offers. We believe we have produced a paper which directly reflects that brand and gives superb conversion results.”

Kenzo’s spokesman, Phillipe Baretje, says the perfume, Le Monde Est Beau, “reflects nature, using the colours of green and orange to represent spring and summer respectively”.

Through the new packaging, Kenzo has been able to revamp an existing product with new colour and style. “New age symbols, simplicity and Zen trends are the guidelines for Kenzo,” adds Baretje.

The Kenzo perfume boxes are made from 100 per cent pure pulp paper in line with EC packaging directives.

To achieve strong packaging while minimising waste, Baretje points out that ecologically aware design needs to be brought into play during the first stages of the brief. The company or end user has to consider this value integral to the product. “Consumers need to be educated, especially children. Eco design has to be global,” he maintains.


More than two-thirds of the world’s retail goods are packaged and transported in corrugated cases. This is a 100 per cent recyclable material, flexible and comparatively inexpensive when compared with plastics and polystyrene.

But one thing corrugated board doesn’t have is sex appeal. The public perception is one of boring, brown board. However, manufacturer Smurfit has done its best to turn it into a stylish and chic material by incorporating it into stylish point-of-purchase displays.

“Marketing and design professionals are finding that by working together with our design teams, the scope for producing cost-effective, recyclable and prominent sales promotions is unlimited,” says Guy Cohen, marketing director of Smurfit UK.

The materials the company used in the L’Oreal merchandiser are approximately 70 per cent recycled and 100 per cent recyclable.

The award-winning L’Oreal floorstanding merchandiser is adaptable to fit a range of products. The brief was to design a point-of-purchase merchandiser that was of simple yet elegant design – using curves if possible – which conveyed the quality and value of the product. One of the most important tasks in this brief was to achieve a cost-effective display that could be adapted for a range of L’Oreal products. Whether tubes, bottles or boxes, the overall look needed to remain the same.

Due to the relatively low quantities involved, litho printing proved too expensive So Smurfit ran trials using its in-house screen print department. The success of these experiments led to the decision to keep the job within the company, thereby reducing origination and manufacturing costs. Silk screen printing in up to five colours ensured that maximum impact was achieved in-store, reflecting the brand’s high-quality image.

Unlike previous floorstands, which were delivered to the customer unassembled or part-assembled to be made up at the point-of-purchase, this design was supplied ready-assembled, in two easily erected sections.

The principal innovation was the use of carrier board, which provided strength and tear resistance.

This measure afforded greater flexibility in the design, so that the main body is an elliptical curve, thus fulfilling the one of the key criteria of the brief.


The recent EC directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste states that packaging of premium items must be limited to the “minimum” amount adequate. However, this does include provision for “consumer acceptance” to be taken into account. The directive also allows luxury packaging to be considered as a “special case”.

The aim of the directive is to reduce the environmental impact of packaging by minimising the quantity and the harm caused by substances in packaging and production processes.

The EU targets on packaging for member countries are to:

recover between 50 and 65 per cent of packaging waste;

recycle between 25 and 45 per cent of the total recovery;

recover packaging in four categories: paper, plastic, glass and metals. For each of these materials recycling must be kept at a minimum of 15 per cent.

One of the front runners in popularising ecologically-aware design is the Centre for Sustainable Design in Surrey. This organisation facilitates discussion and research on environmental issues as they affect design through training, seminars and publications. It acts as a clearing house for information on sustainable product design issues and is a focus for eco-friendly thinking and practice.


Recovery: reusing, recycling, composting and deriving energy from packaging material

Reuse: using the packaging for the same purpose for which it was designed

Recycling: reprocessing packaging waste to become the raw materials for other products


The Centre for Sustainable Design, The Surrey Institute of Art & Design, Falkner Road, Farnham, Surrey GU9 7DS.

Tel: 01252 732229

Champagne Mercier

Eco-friendly design was behind the creation of the Champagne Mercier ice buckets by Cundell Corrugated, part of Smurfit Corrugated UK.

Champagne Mercier, renowned for its innovative marketing, wanted to promote its brand with creativity and flair while maintaining as practicality and customer appeal. “We realised that to make a disposable and environmentally-sound ice bucket viable, it would have to be eye-catching as well as fully functional,” says David Bubb, designer for Cundell Corrugated. “Creating the best design while showing only printed board was a challenge. However, with a little perseverance we achieved exactly what the customer wanted.”

A total of 7500 paratherm-lined octagonal ice buckets made entirely from corrugated board with five-colour litho-laminated printing were delivered to the client. The single sheet of corrugated board is elaborately folded to achieve desired shape.

Carl Stephenson, brand manager for Champagne Mercier, says his company is proud of its reputation for innovative marketing. “This idea and design is no exception. It has been extremely well received by the public and provides an exciting opportunity to display Champagne Mercer as a quality brand.”

The design demonstrates the versatility of corrugated board, explains Geoff Powdrill, Cundell Corrugated’s plant director. “This achievement is also indicative of the tenacity of Smurfit. We had a challenging brief and were determined to meet it. I think the resulting ice bucket satisfies the brief and does so with a touch of class.” Guy Cohen, marketing director of Smurfit UK, adds: “We are continually being challenged by novel packaging problems. Our ability to meet these demonstrates that our industry has moved far beyond the brown box.”

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