Cosmetics packaging professionals are unanimous in observing that the demand for refill solutions in skincare is growing, both on the part of luxury and mass market brands. Of course, the solution can be improved, because it requires two containers, but it does significantly minimize the environmental impact and support consumers, better and better aware of their buying acts, in their proactive approach.

Telling examples in the luxury sector

Ranges like Absolue by Lancôme and Or Rouge by Yves St Laurent recently adopted this principle, confirming the alliance between luxury and the concept of product refillability. To Carol Poltorak, Packaging Director EMEA of the L’Oréal Group, the refill concept is a new business model to be built. “It mirrors the objective of reducing plastic consumption, one of the pillars of the L’Oréal environmental strategy, while preserving the luxury codes. Our brands are actually willing to apply this concept to other formulas, like serums or lotions," she says, confirming they have all been thinking about this approach seen as one of the new optimization levers, with more or less valorization.

We have one main constraint, though: preserving the brand’s luxury codes, even for our refills. We are also studying how we could provide a service that would complement these refills,” adds Carol Poltorak.

Suppliers are particularly aware of this constraint. “As can be seen with what was done with high-end coffee machines, a refill is not necessarily viewed as low-end. There are a lot of beautiful things to be done. Consumers should be able to find luxury in this refill, even if it is only seen once,” explains Raul Cervantes, Personal Care Market Manager of Albéa. For Absolue by Lancôme, a refillable product developed in collaboration with Heinz-Glas, for the main jar, the bottom of the cup designed by Albéa is embossed with the Lancôme Rose to relay the brand’s codes in the tiniest details.

Other constraints include the refill positioning and extraction. “All this should be as easy as possible for consumers, so, for each design we adapt the cup fixation to the original jar”, emphasizes Carol Poltorak.

Refills are often concealed by the jars, which play the role of cases and are meant to be kept, as can be seen with Or Rouge by Yves St Laurent, developed by Bormioli Luigi. “It is the external container that reflects the luxury codes, usually with a significant volume and weight. The technical constraint consists in concealing the cup,” says Federico Montali, Marketing Director of the Italian glassmaker.

This cup can also be made of glass: the Verescence group has registered a patent for this type of solution.

Generally speaking, the main constraint lies in thinking about an ideal combination of the two containers well ahead, with our different partners. The cup should be perfectly integrated to the jar to give the impression it is a single product,” adds Raul Cervantes.

An eco-friendly solution exclusively made of plastic

We believe it will be a long-term trend, there will be a before and after,” asserts Patricia Beauval, Sales Manager of RPC Bramlage Barcelona. The plastic packaging expert manufacturer has just introduced the new Natura Pack line based on this principle: plastic jar + PP refill + cap. The main jar is available in four shapes, cylindrical, oval, amphora, and rectangular, and the 50 ml size refill is made of PP, so it is recyclable. “We believe in this concept so much that we will broaden our range and work on solutions based on recycled materials,” adds Patricia Beauval.

The environmental savings depend on plastic weight and consumption. Here, the weight of a jar with a refill equals that of 14 refills. The transport cost of a million refills is reduced by 63%, compared to the same number of full jars, which corresponds to about 50% less CO2 emissions.

Consumers responsible for the solution

Whatever the segment, the reuse solution seems to be one of the most efficient in reducing the carbon impact. But it does require consumers to accept the approach. “Today, the priority for brands is to convince consumers. If they do not make the effort of separating the pieces, nothing we do upstream will pay off,” explains Raul Cervantes.

Brands share this point of view. “The main point is to make the market communicate more about these refills, even beyond consumers. It all depends on the impact in stores, on how we explain the product benefits. Consumers need to be able to easily find the refills: all this is detailed on the product labels, but we can do more to support this market change. The objective is to make an environmental gesture that helps reduce the impact of plastic use, while preserving the notion of customer experience,” concludes Carol Poltorak.