That was the consensus at London trade fair Packaging Innovations and Luxury Packaging 2015 this month where market opportunities were at the forefront of the minds of around of 4,000 visitors – twice as many as attended the launch event in 2009.
“All the feedback I had is that the luxury market is growing, for sure,” said new show director Gerry Sherwood. “Luxury packaging is one of the most lucrative sectors within the industry, with prestigious brands looking for the latest innovations to enable their products to stand-out in highly competitive shelf spaces.”
The show, held at Olympia in west London, on 16 and 17 September brought together exhibitors from a range of sectors, with a focus on the luxury drinks and beauty markets, and featured a series of talks and debates.
Speaker and head of product development and quality at Harrods Ann Dunne said packaging was crucial in creating a brand. “We can get it absolutely right or completely wrong.”
In the 1980s Harrods adopted a pared-back look with gold foiling, a technique still favoured and used in its recently-launched Along Came Something Exquisite Christmas food campaign.
“There are lots of things around embossing, that tactile feel, layering things up. It feels like you’re really layering up the luxury,” Dunne said.
Italian papermaker Favini, which is sold through Fenner Paper, Strand Paper and GF Smith in the UK, assembled its embossed papers from various ranges into a new single swatch for the show.
Sales export director Andrea Favini said: “For us it’s certainly growing. We invested in a new third embossing machine in March. It’s the effect a lot of customers are looking for, it’s in a lot of perfume boxes and also whisky bottle boxes.”
Print goes hand in hand with paper in creating attractive tactile packaing, according to sales director at GF Smith, Robert Mannix.
“We call it the dark arts – letterpress, foiling, engraving. The cold foil process is really interesting; we have a couple of companies that provide that. We see a lot of our Colorplan paper being embossed. We’re seeing a lot of clear foiling.
“At the very small end of the market we’re seeing more of the HP Indigo technology used with white ink or four-colour over white ink on coloured board. It allows the printer to print on top, there’s a lot of brands out there that are interested in that”
Kings Cross, London mock-up agency Finish, whose clients include Harrods, Bacardi and Diageo is also seeing interest in surface treatments such as rubber feel and soft feel.
Technical director Andrew Panatti said: “Tactile surfaces and interesting materials are popular, for example holographics, metallics and crossovers with laminates.”
Client account manager Ross Shrubsole added: “We worked closely with Colgate recently and we crossed holographic board with transparent inks to give a real interactive play. We play with using different weights of ink.”
Key account manager at substrate manufacturer API, Sean Moore, noted that “lots of lenses, lots of overlays” were popular, “lamination, hot foil and cold foil. It’s all about making your brand sing, it’s about the feel-good factor. Even a brand like Lambrini is now covered in foil.”
Business development manager at Elanders’ new Glasgow site Graeme Leslie agreed that it’s not just the luxury brands that want the luxury look.
“A lot of people want their products to look more high-end – they want a little bit of bling,” he said.
At the other end of the market Mannix said he had seen growth in the craft whisky and gin markets.
“We’re very much about bespoke colours and bespoke embossings which is really important for shelf presence. The craft whisky market is really taking off, there are a lot of small distillers that want short-run packaging.”
Hoping to be at the forefront of an emerging craft vodka trend is brand director of Sauvelle Vodka, Nick Worthington, who spoke at the show’s Drinks Symposium.
Sauvelle launched in July in the UK with a black painted bottle liberally covered in gold foiling, hot stamped twice, three times on large bottles.
“Packaging is vital in today’s marketplace, everyone knows that,” said Worthington. “People buy with their eyes first. Half your job is done before people pick up the product.
“We felt that the finish had to be seamless. We wanted it to be very tactile we tried a label but it wasn’t going to be as slick. I’m working on another spirit project now and I’m very much looking at print for that. I’m speaking to [Northampton-based] Multi Labels – their work is fantastic.”
London-headquartered DS Smith’s luxury packaging is created in France, where it has a 30-person design centre, all focused on fashion.
Export sales manager Veronique Brouaux said sustainability, nature and metallics were currently hot themes.
“The board we use for Verve Clicquot is made from grape leftovers. We produce it just for them.
“We’re very hot on what we call creative print, instead of using expensive papers we try give texture to board, embossing, debossing, different types of colours, different varnishes and textures.”
Metallics were also at Celloglas division Mirri’s stand. “The Sparkle range is very popular,” said business development manager Darren Howard. “It engages you when you look at it. Tactility is becoming more important.”
Antalis graphical board product manager Nick Edmonsdon said Arjowiggins’ Curious Matter range, a shimmery recycled paper coated with a potato starch mixture at its Stoneywood Mill in Aberdeen, had been popular this year. “People are always looking for new things. The drinks market is a good area.”
Sustainably and natural themes are also good business for Cumbrian papermaker James Cropper, which gets around 10% of its pulp from its coffee cup recycling plant and capitalises on natural textures in its Woodgrain range. “Drinks manufacturers like it because it links to wood and the ageing of the products,” luxury packaging director Susan Wilson said. “We’ve also seen more beiges and greys recently. The other trend to see is paper made from post-consumer waste. There’s a great sustainable story from paper.”
Exhibitors were upbeat at the show, which is run by Easyfairs, saying the move from the Business Design Centre in Islington, north London had been positive. Easyfairs said that 76% had already booked for next year’s show, back at Olympia on 14 and 15 September 2016.