Metal: The New Look of Luxe

Both prestige and mass brands are showcasing metal packaging and components to emphasize quality and luxury.

Leah Genuario, Contributing Editor

Parlux Fragrances recently launched Heir by Paris Hilton, a prestige men’s fragrance intended to conjure up images of power, influence and style mixed with a hip edginess reminiscent of the Hilton heiress herself. It is the third men’s launch under the celebrity’s name and is complemented by a women’s version: Heiress by Paris Hilton.
Heir by Paris Hilton makes use of a metal plate and a holographic film that is glue-applied to the flacon. Both the metal and metallic-look accents were supplied by Axilone USA, New York, NY.
The fragrance is just one example of the many new launches incorporating metal and metallic looks into packaging. “This is a growing trend and more and more, packaging includes metal to give it a luxe look,” says Eric Bigotte, president of Axilone.
Fragrance launches have especially propelled the metal industry.
“Fragrances are very busy,” says Peter Philip, vice president of sales and marketing for Eyelematic Manufacturing, Watertown, CT. “Fragrances have such a short life span today. In order to hit next year’s sales, you have to have a new launch this year. The attrition is so high on previous products that you have to have new sales.”
While the prestige fragrance sector has been a big purchaser of metal components and accents, metal isn’t only for prestige products.         

“Metal, particularly aluminum, is used for both prestige products and mass products,” says Boris Schaefer, director of customer relations for Seidel in Montclair, NJ. “Metal is often used to enhance optical and haptical characteristics of beauty and personal care packaging to give it a more upscale appearance.”  

Metal Broadens Its Scope

Aside from fragrances, several other beauty categories have increasingly embraced metal. Despite added expense because of its bag-on-can technology, the sun care product segment continues to make the switch from plastic to metal containers in droves. This goes for sun care products selling in both prestige and mass distribution channels.
“As far as aluminum aerosol containers, the whole sun care category has gone crazy with it. You have the big players and the private label people coming into it,” says Ed Martin, vice president of sales and marketing for CCL Container, Hermitage, PA. Aerosol containers for sun care products “are great for functionality. You can use no-rub formulas so there is also a speed of application process.”

CCL Container helps give MagicTan’s seamless-extruded aluminum container a distinctive copper finish.
MagicTan has recently introduced a do-it-yourself version of the sunless tan with the help of CCL Container. Sold at high-end day spas and boutiques, MagicTan’s seamless-extruded aluminum container features a distinctive copper finish. A matching aluminum over-cap helps form the package’s smooth cylindrical shape. The aerosol technology employed helps ensure an even, natural-looking faux tan, similar to the results achieved at professional UV-free spray tanning booths.
Martin also identifies two other emerging categories for aluminum aerosol containers: skin care and men’s body sprays.
“We’re seeing skin care with an interest in aerosol for cleansing and treatment products. There’s a few that are about to launch, although they haven’t yet,” says Martin.
The men’s grooming aisle will soon boast a metal packaging upgrade. Unilever’s Axe is set to re-launch its men’s body sprays in new packaging this spring, according to its public relations firm. The packaging re-design will continue to utilize the same materials—an aluminum can and a plastic closure—but the actuator and total look will be completely different from Axe’s earlier versions.

Cost Versus Competition

Especially considering recent rises in pricing, metal packaging is not the cheapest option available to brand marketers. Despite this, it is trendier than ever.
“More metal components are being used in the mass market. Metal is going to cost considerably more, but marketers are realizing that the benefits of a prestige look and feel outweigh the cost,” says Philip.
Even metallic looks can cost more than other decorative enhancements, but that isn’t stopping brand marketers. Although it is not a new technology, hot-stamping foil onto labels or packaging has become increasingly popular.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work with metallic-look stamping for labels, as well as neck finish accents and the like,” says Robb Zurek, business development manager for Continental Packaging Solutions in Chicago, IL. “We’ve found it to be a way of adding flare to otherwise mundane labeling and decoration.”
Zurek attributes hot-stamping’s increased use to competition. “The process has been around for a long time. That said, it still does increase the cost, which in the past has meant only those brands not wholly restrained by shaving pennies off their packaging costs have taken advantage of it. However, the market has become so competitive that things like hot foil stamping have become a necessity for shelf (and continued brand) recognition,” he says.

Other Decorating Techniques

There are numerous ways to decorate metal packages and components. For example, metal parts can be buffed and lacquered, anodized, laser engraved, screen printed, hot stamped, pad printed, brushed and sandblasted to achieve a number of different effects.  
Laser engraving allows companies to add signatures, logos or other artwork onto metal and is a technology increasingly used by the prestige beauty category only, due to its slow process and expense.
Although screen printing can accomplish the same objectives as laser engraving (adding characters to metal), laser engraving uses a laser to de-boss the material. Screen printing leaves behind ink and a raised image; laser engraving is permanently etched in and the color is silver or black (when the metal is carbonized).
One fragrance that recently incorporated laser engraving is Avon’s Derek Jeter Driven. The fragrance is housed in a rectangular bottle and topped off with a rectangular, slightly conic aluminum cap, supplied by Seidel. The sophisticated cap shape and luxurious feel are highlighted with a laser engraved decoration featuring the “Driven” logo.
Anodizing is currently a very popular way to decorate metal. One of its uses is to inject color. “We can anodize the metal and we actually change the metal properties with various acid baths to create the color,” says Anthony Di Maio, director of operations for Cameo Metal Products, Brooklyn, NY.

Anomatic enhances Clinique’s bamboo-style lipstick cases through the anodizing process.
Anomatic Corp., Newark, OH, recently enhanced Clinique’s bamboo-style lipstick cases through the anodizing process, which created “packaging that features precise color and a diamond-hard protective finish,” says Scott Rusch, vice president of sales and marketing, Anomatic.
Anomatic also worked on a project for the BBW Tahiti product line. “The Tatau Coconut Vanille cap, as well as actuator and collar components on the Tatau Fei Banana products, were fabricated and anodized by Anomatic. Anomatic also anodized and assembled jar covers on two sizes of the body polish, as well as all eight unique anodized components for this line. Each product within this line features a personalized package with skillfully created color, shape, style and function that will resist fading, chipping, scratching and peeling,” says Rusch.
Buff and lacquering is another decorating technique that can help brand marketers achieve some shiny and flat colors that are more difficult to accomplish through anodizing, according to Di Maio. In this method, “we take the raw aluminum component and polish it to a high luster. After we polish the metal to a high luster we then coat the parts in either a clear epoxy based lacquer, or a dye tinted color epoxy based lacquer, or a solid epoxy based color paint,” Di Maio states. “After the parts are coated they are then baked at high temperature for anywhere from 8-14 minutes, depending upon the job.”

Trends in Metal

Suppliers have identified several trends this year in regards to metal packaging.
Customers are choosing matte finishing soft touch and black effects in an effort to differentiate their products, notes Bigotte of Axilone.
Philip of Eyelematic observes, “A majority of closures being developed today include weights inside the assembly. In addition, we are also seeing an interest in screen printing and hot stamping the shell, including a top stamp, or putting a name plate or colorful disk on the top of the cap.”
The addition of color is a great way to make metal packaging pop off the shelf, and many brand marketers are opting for splashes of color. “We’re seeing customers searching for ways to differentiate their products by offering unique colors and finishes,” says Rusch. Rusch states that the company produced 1,000 color and finish combinations last year, ranging from tangerine and strawberry to antique copper looks.
Also increasingly popular is the use of more sophisticated shapes. True, shape limitations exist with metal packaging and components that are not problems for plastic and glass counterparts. But the metal industry is quickly meeting these challenges and modifying when necessary.
“Metal can be transformed into a huge variety of shapes but there are certain limitations resulting from the material’s physical properties. That is, some particular shapes a designer creates can be realized and sometimes, the design needs to be modified for feasibility reasons,” explains Schaefer.
CCL Container has done a lot of work with shaping aluminum aerosol containers. The company started offering full body shaping in 2005, which allows for top to bottom shaping of rigid aluminum containers. “There’s a move in that direction. While you haven’t had a big marketer jump in, I think you will in the next year,” says Martin.

Christopher Philip’s Gentlemen’s Youth Maintenance grooming line uses CCL Container’s full-body shaping in order to resemble a barbell.
The first marketer to utilize CCL Container’s full-body shaping is Christopher Philip’s Gentlemen’s Youth Maintenance (GYM) grooming line. Its lead product, GYM’s Finish Style Control Spray, launched in September with a masculine-looking container reminiscent of a barbell.
Whether it’s the addition of color, sophisticated shapes, weights or other decorative finishes, one thing is for certain: brand marketers are flaunting the packages they’ve got. Several suppliers mentioned the desire to showcase metal or metallic-look packaging. “There was a point in the past when people didn’t want to draw attention to a metal container,” explains Martin of CCL Container. “In the last year, you continue to find people who want to show that the container is made of metal; they want to enhance that.” 

Metallic Looks for Non-Metallic Materials

Even if the application or economics doesn’t allow for completely metal containers, brand marketers can make the packaging look like metal anyway.

Neutrogena uses brushed film to give its boxes shine.
Brushfoil, Guilford, CT, supplies film that helps transform ordinary paperboard cartons into brushed stainless box replicas. “Clearly the metal look is hot. At the same time, real metal has never been more expensive,” states Jim Parker, Brushfoil partner. “We can simulate stainless steel and offer it in a variety of colors.” The company can also apply scratch- and fingerprint-resistant top coats.
Currently, beauty brands such as Neutrogena, Zirh, Old Spice and Clinique have incorporated brushed film into their packaging.
But what if your product doesn’t require a box? Rest assured, there are still ways to get a metal look.  
For use in multiple polymer systems, Teknor Color Company, Pawtucket, RI, recently introduced MetaLustre Color Concentrates in six metallic colors. The concentrates deliver consistent metallic colors across a brand’s product line.
Continental Packaging Solutions, Chicago, recently launched two products that bring the look of metal while retaining the characteristics of plastic and glass.
Its new plastic tube utilizes a coating that can be produced in custom colors and makes the product look metallic. “The coating on the plastic tubes involves a proprietary process that creates a metallic sleeve, giving an otherwise ordinary looking tube a bright shine,” comments Robb Zurek, business development manager for Continental Packaging Solutions.
Continental Packaging Solutions has also introduced the Monroe Metal Jar. An opal glass insert lines the inner part of the jar, which allows for more difficult-to-hold formulations. The package is available in a brushed-matte silver finish with metal cap, and by special order in a wider range of metallic color finishes.