Online Exclusive: Cartons That Close the Fragrance Sale

This French Connection carton from Diamond Packaging features a silver mylar board, transparent inks and debossing.
Textures, micro-encapsulation, holograms and more are helping to draw fragrance consumers to counter.

In the competitive fragrance market, it’s often the juice and the bottle that garner the headlines and the accolades. But there’s also an unsung hero involved—the carton. While it may often be discarded after purchase, and not kept around as a decorative piece like a glass bottle, it does have its place as an important packaging component.

The carton, or box, is a part of the packaging that is on full display, lining the shelves and fighting for the consumer’s attention. And because of this, brand owners pay close attention to what a carton can do for a fragrance’s appeal. It’s been said that it’s mere seconds that a product has to engage—and keep—a shopper’s attention. And an effective carton can be another aspect of the fragrance that makes or breaks a purchase.

But it’s more than just shelf appeal. Carton designers are also reporting that the carton is another area where brands can leverage their sustainability efforts, which, of course, is a prevailing trend up and down the supply chain.

Texture and Shimmer
Consumers who are actively shopping, as well as those who are “on the fence” about which fragrance to buy, often do something while contemplating a potential purchase—they pick up the item, hold it in their hands, and look at the box. And it’s more than just a box. In the world of fragrance, the box represents the brand, conveying a desired image and effect.

“To say a box is just a box is outdated,” states Doug Williams, of Stephen Gould Corporation. “Today, folding cartons are the marketing panel for the brand, and inspire the consumer to purchase a particular package. If the carton is not aesthetically appealing, the brand is then solely reliant on its image in order to sell the product. The carton needs to evoke feelings of intrigue and seductiveness without intimidating the consumer. By partnering up function and fashion, the consumer is more likely to gravitate to that product,” he says.

And one of the keys to attracting and keeping attention is the use of added value. Fragrance carton manufacturers are reporting the use of textures as one today’s discernible trends.

John Varvatos cartons from Arkay Packaging uses contrasting textures to grab consumer's attention.
Gregg Goldman, director of sales for Arkay Packaging, points out that appealing to multiple senses goes a long way toward making a fragrance appear distinctive. “Our customers know that the way to sell fragrance is to add value to the packaging. Shoppers are looking for something unique that catches their eye in the fraction of a second it takes to scan the counters. Some of the special effects that we are currently adding to our cartons are contrasting coatings and textures. The most popular, lately, is a unique soft-touch coating that has a powdery feel. Multiple stamping colors, as opposed to a simple silver or gold, are also very popular—and convey a certain message that says, ‘this product is special.’ ”

Claude Desmarais, VP business development for Bellwyck Packaging Solutions, points to marketers that are realizing the importance of consumer interaction with the packaging. He says a brand’s first challenge is to make its products stand out over the competition, so that the consumer is compelled to pick it up. “Once the consumer has the product in her hands, the next challenge is to make sure the product does not return to the retail store shelves, but instead, ends up in the consumer’s basket.”

The use of textures, Desmarais adds, has become a key element in closing the sale. “Textures have become very trendy where the packaging gives off a feeling of high quality. For example, our soft touch coatings or unique embossing techniques, as well as glitter, flocking or suede-like printing processes all help to convince the consumer that the product is a worthwhile purchase,” he says.

With samples and travel size packaging trending in the broader beauty packaging market, carton makers can also go down that road. For example, Bellwyck offers self-scented fragrance sampling cards, which Desmarais describes as “a vial card scented with micro-encapsulation that’s mixed in our varnishes and then applied inline on our presses. It’s a very cost-effective way to sample new fragrances,” he says.

Decorative Processes
Diamond Packaging utilizes a process called Cast and Cure to deliver packaging with a holographic effect on its fragrance cartons. Dennis Bacchetta, director of marketing, describes the process: “The Cast and Cure process utilizes a specialty film with a micro-embossed holographic pattern. Once the UV coating is applied, the film is laid over the top of the sheet. With the film still applied, the sheet runs through the UV dryer and is cured. The film is rewound, leaving the holographic effect on the sheet. Because there is no actual transfer of a foil or material onto the substrate, the film can be reused several times before new film is needed,” he says.

This BHPC Classic carton from Diamond Packaging has textured black vat dyed paperboard complemented by gold and red hot foil stamped accents.
MiraFoil is another decorating process being used at Diamond, which Bacchetta describes as a specialty coating that delivers “foil on demand at print speed.” “It is an economical alternative to foil stamping which can be applied inline,” he explains, adding that it is an “environmentally friendly coating that is recyclable (through the de-inking process), uses no heavy metals, and results in less material and energy usage compared to an off-line foil stamping process.”

Cast and Cure and MiraFoil are both cost effective and green technologies—two of the major themes in the carton design space today.

Budget Constraints
While textures and shimmering effects are designed to engage the consumer, keeping costs down to achieve these effects is on marketers’ and brand owners’ agendas.

“Luxury brands continue to reach for more difficult and complex constructions and shapes, and have increased the expectations for expert decorating techniques,” says Mark Villani, director of sales, Knoll Packaging and Printing.

Jeremy Cohen, Knoll’s president, adds, “Budget constraints, even at the highest levels of luxury packaging, pose a challenge in satisfying brands. Everyone has their eye on new, perfect styles and complex strategies, but not everyone has a budget for it.”

“Our opinion is that the most challenging part of designing fragrance packaging is to make the carton stand out from everyone else—while keeping the cost of the secondary package within their proposed budgets,” says Bellwyck’s Desmarais, “Also, the designers must make sure that what they envision for the package is production friendly. We encourage the creative and package development teams to invite their preferred packaging suppliers at the beginning of their development work to make sure their ideas can be realized.”

Arkay’s Goldman agrees. “The biggest issue is adding value, while maintaining cost,” he states. “Through unique customized manufacturing equipment, we have positioned ourselves to add value without adding major cost. That is the biggest challenge and misconception out there. An amazing package does not have to double in price anymore.”

In light of the recession, being creative can be a big help in figuring out the cost conundrum. Stephen Gould’s Williams emphasizes that suppliers and brands have done just this. “For example, manufactures and fillers are collaborating, while also discussing innovative ways to cut costs, such as cartons with built-in liners. By utilizing built-in liners, the labor cost is dramatically reduced at the filler,” he says.

Green Cartons
Creating a great carton, and keeping it within the budget is a balancing act. And to make matters even more complex, of course, is a package’s environmental impact. Being green has never been more important, and carton suppliers’ new product lines are reflecting this.

Cohen says that Knoll continues to expand volume and capability of its patented crossover box, which, he says, “can now be made in Mylar which is 95% recycled by weight, or can be made in 100% recyclable metallized board with cold foil lamination. This enables us to lead the way for holiday and promotional sets with extraordinary graphics that keep sustainability in mind,” he says.

“Our design process has always looked for ways to reduce packaging weight, reduce board usage, and eliminate or replace components such as inserts, shrink wrap, and thermoform,” says Diamond’s Bacchetta. “What’s changed is that we have added new tools, such as Walmart’s Packaging Scorecard Tool and Compass, new materials like MiraFoil and Cast and Cure; and new processes—like our commitment to 100% renewable wind energy—that help us refine packaging by making it better and greener.”

Clinique cartons from Arkay Packaging
Brand managers, Bacchetta adds, are increasingly interested in environmental issues and see it as an opportunity to support a sustainable use of resources and cultivate a positive emotional connection to their brand.

“As a natural evolution of Diamond’s Greenbox initiative, we are applying our tradition of innovation to green packaging design,” says Bacchetta. “Our new Green Chic packaging delivers ‘Beauty without Compromise’ by capturing the essence of luxury brands while communicating an environmentally friendly image and awareness.”

Being aligned with known eco-friendly certification is another key asset that suppliers can offer brands, according to Goldman. “We are FSC and SFI certified—and that kind of environmental responsibility and chain of custody is important to our clients in choosing a supplier. The most obvious choice now is to use a board with PCW (Post Consumer Waste). However, this can mean sacrifice in print integrity, cost, or board availability. We’ve just successfully tested a board with 50% PCW that prints great and is readily available. We are looking forward to producing our first job on this material next month,” he says.

Stephen Gould’s Williams emphasizes the importance of being an eco-friendly supplier in today’s marketplace. “FSC is now a standard, not an option,” he says. “Paper stocks continue to improve the amount of post consumer waste while still maintaining a beautiful finish. For instance, one line we have is Arescycle, which includes a premium white/kraft line (CCKB) including a white pulp and/or DLK top surface. The filler is comprised of post consumer fibers and the bottom ply is recycled white pulp and/or DLK. The brightness is 80 and it has a five-ply, clay-coated kraft back. In regard to environmental awareness, it should be noted that all are 100% recycled fibers, 95% post consumer, recyclable and biodegradable. This is also available in clay-coated news back (CCNB) and clay-coated white back (CCWB),” says Williams.