It’s an exciting time to work in luxury packaging, if a new study from Smithers Pira is to be believed. The print and packaging consultancy says more and more brands are recognising the value that high-end packaging can bring, and fewer are satisfied with bog-standard offerings.
The excitement was keenly felt at the second of this year’s Packaging Innovations and Luxury Packaging shows, held at London’s Olympia last month. With 180 exhibitors congregated under one roof there was a real buzz among packaging specialists who are increasingly aware that their potential client base is expanding significantly.
Expo organiser Easyfairs says the London show was attended by more than 4,300 visitors this year. This was the first edition of the show under the control of new divisional director James Drake-Brockman, and he says his plan to target a more diverse range of brands had paid off.
“Not only did we welcome more visitors and host more suppliers than ever before, but we also successfully introduced our revamped conference format,” he says.
“Visitors clearly recognised that this was the perfect platform to see the latest trends and newest technologies before everyone else, and so came in force.”
According to the Smithers Pira report on luxury packaging, published in August, the market was valued at $13.77bn (£10.4bn) in 2016 and is expected to grow to $14.25bn this year. There is a focus on ‘premiumisation’, led by the food and drink sector, manifested in the development of packs that promise a luxurious experience within. UK dessert brand Gü and its ‘indulgent’ branding was singled out as an example.
The report also indicates that print costs are falling for personalisation jobs and, with Coca-Cola selling more than 150 million of its individualised Share-a-Coke bottles, interest in personalisation remains high.
Exhibitors PrintWeek spoke with said the food industry was making the most of luxury packaging as a fresh marketing strategy.
“We still get interest from other sectors, but we have moved from around 30% food customers a few years ago to 80% now,” says Alexir Partnership business development manager Alan Hill.
“We pride ourselves on offering something a bit different so brands come to us and we will be enthusiastic to help their product stand out. That’s why higher quality packaging is starting to appeal to customers.”
With general consumer brands such as Asda, Heineken, and Mars in attendance, the indication was that luxury packaging is still on the rise. Combining big names with a high volume of new start-ups adds up to a lot of customers who may need a guiding hand to know exactly what luxury packaging can do for their brand.
“The definition of luxury is broadening because many mainstream brands want things to have that quality now,” says Alan Davies, packaging giant Essentra’s global design manager.
“Something tactile that you can hold in your hand will have sticking power. Brands may come in with these big, complicated ideas for us to carry out. But complex things are usually less effective, so we try to make our luxury ideas as immediate and simple as we can.”
With more brands interested in luxury packaging, the increased demand is likely to lead to more packaging specialists trying to meet their needs. One firm that was keen to extend a guiding hand is Vivid Laminating Technologies, which was showcasing its range of Matrix digital laminators at the event.
“We only just went into packaging last year but it has proven lucrative for us and our Matrix laminating machines really are the machine you need if you are making luxury packaging,” says sales team leader Duncan Cross.
“We have been able to advise a lot of graphic designers who wanted to know where they could find manufacturers using our machines.”
Although many exhibitors were courting the mass market for new business opportunities, there were still several specialists happy to remain in their niche, luxury world. As luxury becomes mainstream, parts of the prestige contingent made a point to hold their ground.
Fedrigoni’s Carol Tindal and Nick Rowley allude to several “elusive” high fashion brands they were finally able to meet with during the event, while Easyfairs confirmed that no less than Bulgari, Chanel and Harrods were also in attendance.
Leicestershire-based Label Apeel, while showcasing products printed with inks that fluoresce under UV light, also made sure to plant its flag firmly at the high end of the market, showing little interest in mass production or sacrificing the quality of its output.
“We work with the people who are real sticklers for detail and want everything perfect down to the millimetre,” says Label Apeel sales executive Craig Goodman.
“We are not a brand to shy away from a challenge, but our focus is certainly on high quality rather than cutting costs.”
The Birmingham edition of the show returns to the NEC in early 2018 and back to Olympia next September. With 75% of exhibitors rebooking their spaces onsite, the value of the expo to its visitors appears undeniable.
More than anything, it’s clear that there is significant growth taking place in the luxury packaging market. Luckily for brands and manufacturers alike, Easyfairs is helping to make the most of it.