Here she tells Beauty Packaging about her focus at L’Oréal, her approach to packaging design and some of the key things she’s looking for from packaging suppliers.
Beauty Packaging: When did you make the transition from Coty to L’Oréal? What does your new position offer? What are your current responsibilities?
Stephanie Martins: I joined L’Oréal in November 2012 and in my new position I can really capitalize on the experience I gained through my entire career. I am now responsible for the packaging and development teams of North America’s division, which include Consumer Products, Professional Products and Luxe. I am thrilled to work on hair color and hair care, which are new categories for me. I am also in charge of the NA corporate team, which includes functions such as sustainability, innovation, CAD center, systems and process support.
BP: What do you enjoy the most about your position? What is your key focus?
SM: I enjoy working with my team, listening to their ideas, building plans together and constantly challenging how we do things to build a strong process. My focus is to build the best packaging and development team in North America, to foster and develop talent and bring people to their best potential.
L’Oréal’s recently launched Advanced Hair Care line includes five treatment sublines, delineated by color.
SM: I really want to make sure we are creating a unique experience for our consumer. The packaging has to be perfect in terms of functionality and aspect in order to be a bestseller. I want to make sure my team is really involved early on in the process with the designer in order to influence the design choices.
BP: How do you typically approach a new package design?
SM: I have a holistic approach to packaging design, which means that the creative process has to be simultaneous with all players rather than sequential. In other words: Marketing, Creative, Packaging, Research & Innovation and the plants all have to work hand-in-hand right from the start of the conception phase in order to incorporate risks and opportunities. At L’Oréal, we are really focused on execution excellence and consumer perception.
BP: How important is the relationship of the components?
SM: Each element of the packaging has to convey the brand image. They need to be coherent and speak the “language” of the brand in terms of quality and level of innovation perceived.
BP: What role do packaging suppliers play in L’Oréal’s package development process?
SM: We have a great collaboration with our suppliers and in most cases, we are in ‘co-development’ mode. This means that they actively participate in the conception of our packaging. My vision is to continue our path in bringing innovation to the marketplace, partnering with our suppliers to develop new technologies and exclusive packaging design concepts.
BP: What is your latest tool as far as design innovation?
SM: We have a new platform to share innovative ideas called E-NOV, which allows the innovation teams to work together on a global level, while being present regionally in order to be close to our emerging markets.
BP: Does L’Oréal have an overall goal or focus in its packaging? Is there an emphasis on a particular category?
SM: One of our main sustainability goals is to reduce waste in our plants. For our packaging community, this means being able to design our components and finished goods packaging with the lightest weight possible. This is a huge challenge and we welcome any supplier who can help us achieve our goals.
BP: How has the packaging engineer role evolved?
SM: Ten to-twenty years ago, a packaging engineer was really a designer and materials specialist. Today he/she has developed many additional skills such as consumer trends understanding, knowledge of retailer environments, supply chain design and constraints, manufacturing efficiency criteria, suppliers’ capabilities… In addition to this, he/she needs to be on top of ever-evolving packaging technologies and regulatory requirements.
BP: Please describe a recent launch from your team. What were the packaging challenges?
SM: My team has been working on the L’Oréal Advanced Hair Care line, which launched this past January. Given the strategic importance of launching a premium hair care product range for L’Oréal Paris, our focus was to develop a product that satisfied the high-end aesthetic direction while guaranteeing a highly functional and consumer-friendly packaging experience. This required a strong collaboration with our marketing partners who understood the importance of making key technical adjustments to maintain the functional integrity of the packaging, while respecting the vision for the overall product range.
From a packaging standpoint, L’Oréal Advanced Hair Care consists of various types of packages including custom bi-injection flip-top closures and custom PET bottles featuring a unique domed design for the conditioner packages. This was achieved by using a new, smooth, gating process during the molding of the PET pre-forms. A soft texture is used on the surface of the closure to provide a translucent ‘shower door’ appearance to ‘hide’ the neck details, yet allow a visual of light glowing through it. Utilizing 3D CAD software, the decoration area was extracted from the surface of the bottle curvature. This area was used to create the pressure-sensitive label that maximizes the bottle decoration while maintaining alignment of brand graphics across shampoo and conditioner packages seen on-shelf. One of the successes of the Technical Packaging team for this launch was the ability to achieve optimized cap and bottle weight without compromising the consumer experience while maintaining the manufacturing environment as a constant focus.
BP: What advice would you give to a young packaging engineer today?
SM: Continue to learn every day, be flexible and adaptable to change, be connected and able to learn different languages and work with different cultures. This is a fantastic job because you have a huge added value and impact on the business results. L’Oréal offers thrilling careers and is the school of excellence for Packaging and Development.