An analysis of personalization in packaging

A look at personalization in packaging

How packagers are looking to meet the demand for personalized products

Beauty’s latest buzzword is personalization, with consumer demand for tailored products growing. As a result, packaging players are beginning to factor in the increased complexity that these products require. The change is profound, as the industry moves away from a scenario where the brand dictated what the consumer needed, to one where the end user plays an active role. “Product customization has been one of the most important changes in consumer behavior lately,” says Albéa Beauty Solutions marketing director Anne Rutigliano. “It is changing the way brands interact with their consumers by putting more power into consumers’ hands.” Arcade Beauty Europe general manager Carl Allain adds: “We are at a point where brands are reducing quantities to personalize by consumer profile.”

Costs and complexity
For the moment, however, the complexity involved in ultrapersonalization, as well as the higher costs implied by developing one-off packs, are significant barriers. This means that personalization is largely centered on integrating demand for shorter series and diversifying the range of decoration techniques to enable brands to offer perceived personalization. Albéa, for example, personalizes existing molds for short series and animations, thanks in part to its Shanghai-based mold modularity facility, which can tweak existing tooling to allow a revamped pack, as well as offering an extensive range of in-house decoration options. Standards are also seen as offering a broader range of production-ready solutions that allow brands to differentiate.

Beyond such developments, personalization becomes more complex for suppliers that are dependent on heavy industry and large volumes. “At the moment, it’s not profitable for us to bid for briefs for very small volumes,” says Axilone Group chief operating officer Philippe Cruau. Indeed, certain brands also still feel they are ill-equipped to offer such products, suppliers say. While brands are reportedly willing to spend more on personalization as they can pass on the higher costs to the consumer, price is clearly a barrier to what many describe as “ultra-personalization.” “The cost of putting [personalization] in place is disproportionate compared with the number of people who would potentially want to buy this type of product,” suggests HCP France president Eric Firmin. “This is difficult to quantify today. We don’t know how many people would buy such a product if it costs three times as much. If the consumer is ready and willing, we have the industrial solutions to be able to do this.”

DIY packs?
More packagers are exploring solutions that allow consumers to adapt the packaging themselves. “It’s more than a trend, and demand from brands in the make-up and fragrance space is growing,” says Seram marketing manager Marie-Cécile Luquet. “We’re working on innovations that will be presented at [trade show] Luxe Pack so the consumer can appropriate the product and personalize it.”

Retailers like Sephora, which offers fragrance engraving, and food and beverage brands like Coca-Cola and Nutella, with their personalized printing solutions, have highlighted consumers’ appetites for such products. This has set a precedent and is making both brands and packagers think about how to cater to this demand.

The fact that such solutions automatically take place late in the production process—or even after a product has been shipped – is a logistical challenge to suppliers. “We have to adapt, because we have to offer brands solutions so they can put such products in stores, and that implies certain logistics,” says Luquet. “It changes our role. We need to think about how, in the point of sale, changes can be made […] Extreme personalization is a new challenge for which we will have to find solutions that allow the consumer to intervene in the creation of the packaging directly,” she adds. Albéa’s Rutigliano agrees: “Customization is changing the rules of the game for packaging suppliers. To be quicker and more agile we need to think ‘cosmetic solutions and services’ while operating an industrial transformation to support our customers in this huge change.”

“Personalization to the individual consumer is difficult because of production times,” confirms HCP’s Firmin. “Immediate personalization is only available at retail, otherwise it has to be integrated in an industrial process […] It would have to come fairly early in the process. Because of this, we can be less spontaneous. But then when you look at cars, which you can personalize, you accept the added delay,” he observes.

Brands looking to personalize products for consumers at the point-of-sale could potentially drive demand for mix-and-match components that are easy to fit together by untrained store staff, rather than readyfinished packages that are filled in a factory environment either by the brand or a specialized filler or full-service manufacturer. Several brands already offer such options to consumers. Natura, Innisfree and Make Up For Ever are just some of those offering mixand- match and refillable solutions, which have been on the market for several years, and cater very well to consumers’ desire to take a more active role in their product choices.

Most of the personalized products currently on the market—whether it be mixing palettes, mix-and-match fragrances, specially created shades or tailored skincare solutions—meanwhile, can easily be created using existing packaging options, for which packagers are reporting growing demand. “We are seeing renewed interest in make-up palettes where the consumer can mix and match,” says Quadpack ceo Tim Eaves. “In fragrance, small mix-and-match formats are also a growth area.”

3D printing & digital
Developments in technology, meanwhile, notably in digital and 3D printing, are allowing packagers to move towards more personalized solutions, which offer them flexibility at a lower cost, since they can adapt without investing in new tools. 3D printing in particular is seen as a strong contender for allowing more personalized packs in the future, and suppliers are now going beyond using the technology for prototyping to use it to create real packs. “We are working on 3D printing projects that allow us to resolve design issues that no existing solution on the market allows us to,” says Texen business development and full service manager Daniel Saclier.

Some suggest 3D printing could be offered by brands at retail in the future to allow consumers to choose their own packaging format in a similar way to how certain sneaker brands have been offering consumers the opportunity to personalize their design instore or online. “With 3D printing, we could almost produce a one-off pack that is printed while you wait,” says Eaves. Labeling solutions providers may also see renewed demand as brands seek low-cost, last minute solutions they can implement themselves as they tailor products before shipping to consumers. Indeed, while labels are often seen as a less sophisticated option than directly printed caps, the more artisanal feel of many personalized beauty products fits with the authenticity of their image.

What’s the future?
At the end of the day, much of the personalization taking place in the market involves formulas, rather than packaging. “Pure personalization in packaging is little developed so far,” says Texen’s Saclier. “It is more the case in formulation, for example a fragrance where the notes are mixed according to the consumer’s tastes, in make-up with the customization of specific pigments and in skincare with agents like vitamins.”

While such products may increase demand for certain existing types of packaging, they have little impact on innovation and development in the sector. “We have the solutions today, through a wide range of technologies—segmented per market—and distribution channel solutions (in-store, magazines, catalogs, direct mailing, e-commerce and door-to-door,” says Arcade Beauty’s Allain. “We present our offer and aim to satisfy our customers’ needs; today we don’t see [the] sampling business turning to individualized personalization.”

“I think it will come,” says Texen’s Saclier. “But the difficulty will be in moving the industry towards this relatively récent evolution. In the past 25 years, there has been little real change in the cosmetics world—the codes have always been relatively institutional—but if you look at what has happened in textiles, automobiles and food, a lot more has gone on to allow a certain type of adaptability. These industries know how to respond to the evolution of demand, while beauty is not yet ready.”

While there are a string of challenges when it comes to personalization for packaging suppliers, there are also solutions, and the pace of technological development is rapidly opening up new avenues for the future. Personalization may force the creation of new stages in production and a reorganization of processes in some areas, but for those capable of facing up to this head on, opportunities lie ahead.

Personalization innovations

French accessories specialist Seram is working on solutions that allow the consumer to intervene in the packaging creation process in line with growing demand from brands. Last year, the company presented its Interactive Message Ornament, which allows the consumer to generate a personalized message on packaging via a QR code and link to video content. The company will highlight new developments that take the concept even further at this year’s Luxe Pack Monaco trade show. “There is a need for the consumer to intervene and create part of the packaging him or herself,” says marketing manager Marie-Cécile Luquet. As a manufacturer of decoration solutions like ribbons and tags that can be added late in the production process, Seram has a distinct advantage over certain suppliers involved in complex industrial processes when it comes to offering personalization.


Spanish company CTL-TH Packaging recently debuted ES Tube, a premium tube that potentially allows the full personalization of a pack—with a customer’s name, for example. It uses a patented combination of in-mold labeling and digital offset printing. Brands can use the pack, for example, to reward loyal customers by providing the supplier with a spreadsheet of names that are used to create individual tubes at no extra operating cost, says the company’s sales and marketing director Anthony Le Minoux. The technology is completely new—solutions offering varied patterns, traceability solutions and augmented reality have already been presented to the market—and as such has not yet been picked up by a brand. Such technology can potentially be used for any packaging that is printed flat, Le Minoux says.


Glassmaker Verescence is seeing growing demand for one-off bottles and is working on a range of solutions that allow this. The company’s Verre Minéral is one such option, and has colored volutes in the glass itself, making each bottle unique. While the company anticipated demand from luxury brands when it revealed the innovation last year, it has seen interest from a broad range of customers, Verescence marketing and communication director Astrid Dulau- Vuillet says. The first such products will arrive on the market early next year, she reveals. Another option is the firm’s inkjet technology, which works like laser printing and can be used to create a décor specific to the consumer. “It’s not so complex for us; we have planned for it and we can make each bottle unique,” says Dulau-Vuillet. “It is how the brand manages the demand that is complex. To date, no-one has asked us to use this technology to personalize individual bottles.” Finally, the company’s laser engraving is another solution, recently used by Tom Ford Beauty to create a series of numbered bottles for its Bois Marocain limited-edition fragrance. Each of the 1,000 bottles produced has its own number, making the scent like an artwork to be collected.



UK-based Nails Inc called on HCP to create personalized packaging for its Styled By You nail polishes a few years ago, one of very few ultra-personalized beauty products on the market, and continues to offer the service online today. To create the customized product, the consumer chooses the color of the nail polish and then selects the color of the cap and its décor, such as a crystal or metallic finish. They can also personalize the nail polish by selecting from a range of messages that can be applied to both the cap and the box. “The Nails Inc project was made possible thanks to laser techniques,” explains HCP France president Eric Firmin. “Technically, it was complex, because you have to respect a certain timing. It’s difficult because we are a B2B company, and generally such personalization is introduced at the brand level.”