Paperboard’s eco-friendly features and its ability to showcase high-resolution graphics are market drivers, according to the report. There are times, though, when a plastic carton makes more sense for a brand. In an unusual move, Stiks Cosmetiks switched from paperboard to a plastic carton, created by HLP Klearfold, for reasons explained further on in this article.
In addition to paperboard, cartons and boxes are often plastic, or even metal. No matter the material, a carton has several “jobs.” Protecting a product is obviously key, but the message a box conveys about the brand is equally important.
“A carton’s goal is to attract the consumer’s attention when and where it matters most—on the store shelf,” says Dennis Bacchetta, director of marketing, Diamond Packaging. “We achieve this through creative structural design and a variety of decorative processes,” he says.
A carton should always convey a brand’s message. Design cues, especially color, have the power to influence a purchase—depending on where the product is sold. Even if the first time a consumer sees the carton is after the purchase, however, it isn’t any less important. As the first part of the product that the consumer touches, the carton is a huge part of a brand’s “user experience.”
Trends & Tips
Certain attributes, such as material choice, texture and graphics, will resonate with the consumer—or not. They will influence the user’s first impression and opinion of a product.
“We keep hearing our customers say that a carton needs to pop,” says David Berkman, president & CEO, Allta International. Various textures and coatings are being used to give paperboard cartons and boxes upscale looks, according to Berkman. “Mylars are also often requested, in gold and silver, for decorating,” he says.
Allta International often fulfills requests for cartons with die-cut windows, which showcase the product inside the box. “This allows shoppers to see the product without having to open the box, and is a sure way to capture a shopper’s interest, quickly,” says Berkman.
Allta International does everything from sourcing materials to converting and decorating cartons. “Our core strength is in paper, but we do some plastic cartons as well—and lots of gift boxes that look handmade,” says Berkman. “We have our own factories to provide turnkey service,” he adds.
Berkman says his advice to his customers often includes this tip: “A carton is a brand’s billboard,” he says. “A shopper will look at the product, and needs to immediately understand what’s inside the box—and must be enticed to investigate,” he explains.
Terri Goldstein, founder/CEO of The Goldstein Group has the same advice as Berkman—that a brand should think about a carton as a “billboard.” “A design that includes a large primary display panel is key,” she says. “Your branding should be seen, felt and understood in five seconds or less,” she explains. “I often recommend that a brand use a proprietary carton shape to disrupt the shelf,” she adds.
Goldstein also suggests that brands use “core identifiers” on cartons, and these include the colors, shapes and symbols specific to your brand. “You will be building brand recall,” she says. “Think about trademarking your colors, shapes and symbols. It is often a challenge to carve out a brand imagery strategy, and ensure that your packaging is unique, memorable and meaningful—but this should be the goal when designing a carton or box,” she says.
Creative & Colorful Carton Designs
Color and various types of design elements, when used in creative ways on a carton, can help create a memorable brand image that will ensure a product resonates with consumers.
Nateeva, a new fragrance collection inspired by travel destinations, chose a minimalist look for its white paperboard cartons, which are supplied by DISC. Several surprising design elements, however, are used in creative ways to make the carton “remarkable,” according to Jay McSherry, co-founder, Nateeva fragrances.
“When you open the box, it appears as if the bottle is sitting in a bed of flowers,” explains McSherry. “Plus, when you lift up the top of the carton, you’ll find a poem. We commissioned a poet to write a poem about each of our fragrances,” he says.
Adoratherapy is a fragrance line based on “color energy.” Each of the scents in the brand’s Chakra Boost collection is color-coded to a specific chakra color—so its cartons are decorated with a colorful illustration.
“Color was a challenge,” says Laura McCann, Adoratherapy’s co-founder, CEO and creative director. “Printing the color that corresponds to our Chakra Spice was especially challenging to execute,” she says. “It has metallic, gradient shading, plus fonts in light colors on lighter backgrounds. We kept tweaking until we got it right,” she says.
Adoratherapy uses matte, recycled paper for its cartons and boxes. Each fragrance is in the brand’s signature matchbox carton. The Mood Boost boxed set, shown, contains seven of the brand’s fragrances. The box’s inner lid is decorated with a large, vibrantly colored label that shows the color that corresponds to each scent. The Mood Boost set also has a rigid outer wrapper.
Neenah’s Custom Colors & Specialty Boards
Creating a carton that will stand out on shelves, in the right color, first requires choosing the right paperboard. The team at Neenah Packaging are experts at “color making and matching,” according to Mark Sng, the supplier’s director of marketing. “Color matching is both an art and science,” he says.
Neenah has the ability to match and produce boards in nearly any color, to match a brand’s trademark, signature look—or even a cosmetic product. “Imagine a beauty box that shimmers like an emerald green nail polish,” says Sng. “Or a coral lipstick, a ballet pink fragrance, and a sparkly eye shadow—all that is color-matched to the box,” he says. “These cartons will help a cosmetic brand literally sparkle at shelf,” he adds.
Neenah recently created a cobalt blue inspired by the Greek islands. The supplier also developed a vibrant red from hand-painted swatches, inspired by a leading designer’s trip to China. “We encourage brands to think beyond the swatchbook to create their own custom color masterpieces, colors that are as unique as their brands,” says Sng. “The inspiration can be provided with a color chip, a formula, or a fabric sample. Some colors are harder to make than others; we work closely with the customer to find the right solution,” he explains.
Neenah also recently created Pearlized Folding Boards, specifically for beauty products. “These boards can also be produced in nearly any custom color,” says Sng. Another option is its Dyed-Through Folding Boards. “Customers who use our dyed through folding board tell us it offers a high level of finishing that is difficult to achieve with SBS,” says Sng. “With a dyed-through board, such as one that is black all the way through, the substrate is part of the design—not just something that needs to be covered up,” he explains. “The finish on this board is so rich that customers such as Brown-Forman tell us they use fewer varnishes, since they find they don’t need to protect the color. It also resists scuffing, and it doesn’t take fingerprints,” he adds.
Low-Key and Luxe
Capturing the consumer’s interest and conveying “luxury” doesn’t always mean using bright colors or flashy graphics. Minimal, understated looks are often chosen by prestige brands, and enhanced with interesting textures.
Diamond Packaging recently produced the carton for Five Star Fragrance Company’s Pierre Cardin Choc fragrance. “This carton is an excellent example of how minimalist decoration can impart an upscale and luxe aesthetic through tasteful design flourishes and subtle visual and tactile cues,” says Diamond Packaging’s Bacchetta.
The carton was converted utilizing Iggesund Invercote G .020 paperboard and offset printed with gold and process black inks, in-line with DiamondTouch soft touch coating and UV gloss spot coating. “The overall DiamondTouch soft touch coating adds an appealing tactile quality that promotes consumer interaction,” Bacchetta says. “The UV gloss spot coating over the interlocking circles on the front panel provides a striking contrast to the overall matte soft touch finish surrounding it,” he adds.
Transparent gold ink was printed over cold foil to create a shimmering, metallic effect. “The exquisite overall multi-level embossed, interlocking semi-circle pattern adds distinction and reflects the legendary designer’s love for geometric shapes,” adds Bachetta.
Stiks Switched from Paper to Plastic
Plastic cartons offer the benefit of being able to showcase a product, beautifully. In an uncommon move, Stiks Cosmetiks recently enlisted the help of HLP Klearfold to switch from its paperboard cartons to clear plastic boxes. (See the “before and after” photos on BeautyPackaging.com) In addition to selling individually, four lipsticks are packaged together in the Stik Kit, which is shown at the beginning of this article.
Laura Heilman, founder/CEO, Stiks Cosmetiks, designed the brand’s signature flat lipstick case to ensure it would fit into a wallet or back pocket. The cap flips open with the thumb for an easy, one-handed application.
Stiks worked with HLP to create new clear plastic cartons for its individual lipsticks, as well as the Stik Kit, a set of four lipsticks and a mirror. The new cartons were designed by Kristin Moore-Gantz, partner & creative director, Stiks Cosmetics.
Pat McGee, vice president of marketing, HLP Klearfold, explains, “The lipstick bullet sits up above the case’s base within the clear acrylic flip cap, allowing for a direct view of the lipstick color. The case’s distinctive metallic appearance, direct view of the lipstick color, and hinged cap makes this product truly unique in the lipstick category. However, the brand launched in a rather simply decorated opaque paperboard folding carton, which did not reveal the product’s uniqueness,” says McGee.
Moore-Gantz says, “HLP helped to make sure our lipsticks float inside the new boxes. They sit in a vac-form inside the clear plastic cartons, which reflect so much light,” she says.
Heilman adds, “Our new clear cartons have succeeded in elevating the brand at POP, enabling our products to shine.”
Rigid Boxes Turn Products Into Presents
A fancy rigid box will turn any product into a present. Charlotte Tilbury Beauty recently enlisted the help of Clarke Rubicon, a division of Pollard Boxes group, to design a presentation box for its fragrance.
The high-quality box was created to introduce the new fragrance to the company’s key targets of retail buyers, specifiers and influencers.
“The box needed to reflect the perfume’s premium positioning and showcase the attractive bottle design, while also containing relevant brand information and providing effective protection for the product in transit,” states the supplier.
Clarke Rubicon produced a metal-hinged rigid box decorated with a paper that gives it the look of faux leather. The lid incorporates a thin foam pad, layered between paper and cardboard. A bright silver finish on the inside is intricately foil blocked in two colors.
The bottle sits inside a high-density foam fitment, which has a suede look. “The box’s design generates a sense of excitement upon opening it—and maintains the brand’s luxury image,” states Clarke Rubicon.
Executing this design required much attention to detail, according to the supplier. The foam is high-density, and was cut using a water jet process to ensure the bottle would fit securely inside the box. Clarke Rubicon also carried out in-depth testing of the suede effect finish for the high-density foam to ensure it would withstand the cutting process.
Being ‘Green’ is a Priority
Sustainability is a hot topic for just about every brand these days, and there are numerous ways to make a folding carton more eco-friendly. Several suppliers offer FSC-certified paperboard, converters offer wind-powered plants, and decorators have eco-friendly inks.
Diamond Packaging’s Bacchetta says the company leads the folding carton market in sustainability through its “greenbox” initiative, which includes a zero manufacturing waste to landfill program. The supplier is still able to deliver luxe looks, which is part of its promise of “Beauty without Compromise,” which it says its ‘GreenChic’ packaging model delivers. “We’re able to capture the essence of luxury brands through more sustainable converting methods,” says Bacchetta. These methods include specialty UV coating techniques, cold foiling, and in-line embossing.
Bacchetta adds, “Brands want their products to be disruptive, visually appealing, and eco-friendly at the same time,” he adds.
Neenah Packaging’s Sng agrees, saying, “Beauty brands seek high-impact at shelf and low-impact for the planet. They don’t want to compromise to achieve both.”
Neenah offers a range of ‘green’ options. All of Neenah’s folding boards are FSC-certified. The supplier also offers boards that contain up to 100% PC (post-consumer fiber), with a minimum of up to 30% PC fiber. “We can also create customized products for brands, to meet their carbon footprint goals and corporate sustainability metrics. We will help a brand to track their activity via environmental scorecards,” says Sng.
Suppliers say the demand for all things “green” will continue to influence packaging in a big way—especially for a product’s outer package, such as a carton or box.
Consumers are increasingly concerned with sustainability issues, so brands are as well, suppliers say. “We expect brands to continue to demand more sophisticated packaging options that are produced cost-effectively and sustainably,” says Diamond’s Bacchetta. “Large multinationals, including P&G and Unilever, are recognizing the social and commercial importance of reducing their environmental footprint. This includes energy and water usage, and waste management. As a result, they are adopting ambitious zero-waste-to-landfill initiatives that will provide long-term environmental and economic benefits.”
Bacchetta adds that Diamond Packaging’s recovery and recycling program has resulted in achieving zero manufacturing waste-to-landfill status, since 2014. “As a carton converter, we seek to find positive end-of-life scenarios for all waste streams. We are also working with our suppliers to follow our lead.”
Diamond has begun an initiative to interact with all of its major suppliers to promote its zero-manufacturing-waste- to-landfill initiatives. Bacchetta comments, “The future is definitely ‘green.’ ”
How WS Packaging’s DesignMax can help a brand redesign cartons and labels.
A folding carton is an important sales tool, especially when it is the first part of a product that a consumer sees. Suppliers such as WS Packaging are offering ways to help ensure a brand is utilizing all the latest innovations in material construction and printing.
WS Packaging recently redesigned a hair care product’s folding carton using its DesignMax tool. The new carton enhanced the product’s branding and increased its shelf presence, according to Charlie Eitel, CEO, WS Packaging Group.
WS Packaging’s DesignMax process includes reviewing a brand’s existing package and suggesting innovative solutions in construction, as well as eye-catching decorating options.
Eitel explains, “The DesignMax tool allows our staff artists to work directly with clients to provide them with suggestions and technological enhancements to their art to help improve the brand’s appearance on the shelf. With our knowledge and capabilities in advanced printing technology, combined with our design staff, we can offer breakout designs the customer may not even have known were possible.”
The tool is most often used for folding cartons and labels. The numerous design options range from folding carton sleeves and heat-changing label colorations to innovative “hour glass” timer labels and geo-location identifiers in real-time.