Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the LuxePack Los Angeles packaging trade show at the Los Angeles Convention Center. This was my first time attending the event, which shared exhibition hall space with a beauty trade show called MakeUp in Los Angeles. There were lots of packaging suppliers and beauty industry professionals present and it was a great chance to learn about new technologies and trends in packaging. Today, I'd like to share a few trends I observed during the show.
End User Recycling
The first trend that I noticed was a focus on recycling. In the past, it's been common to see sustainability-focused beauty brands call out the percentage of post-consumer recycled (PCR) content in their plastic packaging or emphasize their use of plastic-free packaging options such as metal or glass. I noticed a new focus on the ability of consumers to recycle the package after use.
Currently, if you buy a beauty product in a plastic tube or bottle, the different packaging components are probably made from different plastic resins. For example, a bottle of shampoo may have the mobius loop recycling symbol with a number indicating the plastic resin used, but the cap is made from a different type of plastic that is not recyclable. If the end user uses the shampoo and tosses the whole unit into the recycling bin, it may still end up in a landfill despite their efforts.
Individual components themselves are often made from multiple materials. If you look closely at a pump, you will see that it is made of plastic but also contains a metal spring. This cannot be recycled. Makeup products like mascara wands, eye shadow compacts, and lipstick tubes are almost always made of mixed materials, rendering them non-recyclable.
Many packaging suppliers have taken steps to address these issues. I saw several companies emphasizing the use of a single plastic resin for the entire package that could be recycled easily by the consumer after use. I think it's great to see that the growing consumer desire to reduce single-use plastic packaging such as straws and cutlery has bled over into the beauty industry and been a catalyst for change.
Another trend I noticed was also related to sustainability. Instead of recycling, the focus was on the first two Rs of the slogan"reduce, reuse, recycle" - reducing packaging material by creating reusable packages and refills. As an example, lipstick tubes can be designed to last for years and the actual lipstick product can be sold in separate refill package that makes it easy to refill the permanent container and then recycle.
Refilling does not have to be limited to solid form products. This concept also works for liquid product types like shampoos, conditioners, and lotions. A permanent bottle can be purchased once and then refilled from a bulk container of the liquid product or small recyclable totes of product. I found this trend interesting and so did the show organizers. They hosted a panel about the topic at the show which discussed current refillable and reusable offerings on the market, the growing trend with brands and packaging suppliers, and predictions for the future.
I love the idea of a retail space where consumers can bring packages to be refilled or buy products in minimal packaging to take home. It reminded me of co-op grocery stores where you can buy foods like grains, beans, and coffee in bulk using your own reusable containers. I hope it comes to fruition in a mass retailer soon. I think consumers are ready for more options that help them reduce the number of single-use plastics in their lives. It can also be an opportunity for designers, packaging engineers, and packaging suppliers to make simple refill packages that can minimize material costs and shipping weights and also create beautiful permanent packages for products that are meant to last forever.
The final trend I noticed was the ability to customize everything. Showcasing unique custom options allows suppliers to draw attention to their companies at the show, but I think it also relates to the greater beauty industry trend of customization and personalized experiences.
With the prevalence of social media, brands are especially focused on the beauty of their packaging and how it can stand out in a sea of off-the-shelf stock packaging options. I saw really interesting technology showcased like plastic tubes that can be decorated with custom designs overnight due to a unique printing process and hologram labels that offer a three-dimensional visual experience that is designed to match a gif rather than a pdf.
Design studios were also on hand to showcase the unique ways gift boxes, beauty tools and other hard goods can be incorporated into a product offering. As giant brand conglomerates continue to lose market share to small independent companies, I look forward to see what interesting and unique designs and packaging options smaller brands use to differentiate their products and draw the consumer's attention.
Overall, It was great to see the combination of custom luxurious packaging and design together with a focus on sustainable and recyclable materials. I am hopeful that the beauty industry will be able to create innovative ways to reduce single-use plastic and empower consumers to make environmentally friendly decisions without compromising the product experience. As consumers become more conscientious about their impact on the environment, I think the market will increasingly demand it.
What do you think about packaging and design? Do you have questions about the trends I observed at the show or any bold predictions for the future? Let me know in the comments.