Valérie Lebelt, Albéa

Valérie Lebelt, Albéa

Premium Beauty News - Higher sustainability requirements, reduced time to market, shorter series: the cosmetic tube market is undergoing major transformations!

Valérie Lebelt - Undeniably! We have witnessed both a transformation of expectations and an acceleration of the market.

First, the requirement for durability really took centre stage, with the development of more durable materials and a lightening of tubes. For plastic tubes, our range of tubes incorporating Post-Consumer Recycled or bio-sourced resins has expanded considerably. On the side of laminated tubes, they also make it possible to imagine multi-layer structures combining recyclability, innovation and formula protection. These changes also transform the way the body of the tube is printed. The most notable example is the paper tube that we presented with L’Oréal at the last Luxe Pack show in Monaco and which will be launched very soon on the market. Not only are the properties of the material different in production, but the brown colour of the paper also changes printing constraints.

Another change: because of the rise of indie brands and the tendency of historic brands to imitate their test and learn practices, we are asked for shorter series.

At the same time, the time to market constraint is becoming increasingly important. Today, development times for a new product are of 4 to 6 weeks. A couple of years ago, they were of 3 months...

Finally, there is a growing need for differentiation. In the tube market, a highly standardized product, this differentiation mostly involves the decor, whose importance is further increased by the visual imperative, what we call instagramization, and the trend towards premiumisation.

In short, we are always asked for more agility, responsiveness, innovation and reliability! And our ability to quickly and efficiently develop new decors is central to this transformation.

Premium Beauty News - Is the Covid-19 pandemic impacting these trends?

Valérie Lebelt - The current health crisis mostly highlights the importance of being able to rely on a flexible supply, – to avoid being immobilized by the disruption of a supplier or a country–, and of being reactive, to adapt quickly to sudden changes in the market.

And there again, while tubes remain relatively standardized, it is our ability to transfer the decoration processes from one production site to another that will, or not, guarantee continuity of supply.

Premium Beauty News - Hence a commitment to digitalization?

Valérie Lebelt - It’s much more than that, it’s a real transformation in the way tubes are developed and decorated! Indeed some technical stages can be accelerated and their reliability increased thanks to digitization. But it also enables to manage projects in a collaborative mode, and ensure transparency from start to finish.

A few weeks ago, I would have advocated the benefits of digital collaboration in order to exchange between technical departments, between manufacturing sites, and of course interact with our customers, and thus accelerate and increase the reliability of the development of a new decor. Today, I would add that this also allows quickly multiplying production in our different sites, in different countries, and thus make supplies more flexible and secure.

Technically, digital printing obviously offers many advantages in terms of speed of execution, agility and personalization. All this looks very attractive but, in practice, buying a digital printer is not enough. Results can only be reliable if the upstream process is controlled. Going digital, means we get rid of end of line adjustments but on the other hand we generate new needs upstream. And because of the time to markets pressure, we must ensure that we master pre-press operations, the development of colours, the design of tools.

Mastering the entire graphic chain is therefore both a quality and time-to-market issue. This is the core of our Decor & Development 4.0 programme. We called upon Esko, a graphic chain specialists who has become a real partner in the digital transformation of our decor development process. Esko provides us with latest generation tools, as well as a collaborative platform to manage projects - first for those related to a new décor, but with a focus on complete developments, including in particular the material, the cap, the applicator. First within Albéa, but with the aim of an integrated digital interface with our customers.

Premium Beauty News - In practical term, how does this translate today for your customers?

Valérie Lebelt - Very quickly, we understood that the work of standardization and control of decoration parameters, upstream production, could allow us to make a simulation regarding the results of the printed decoration, outside production lines, what we call proofing.

Our customers always receive a real sample! What changes is that we can do without the production test which represents a significant cost and generates an additional delay of 4 to 5 weeks as well as the use of almost 300 kg of plastic material.

Concretely, our work on the graphic chain allowed us to completely standardize the formulation of colours and printout results on the most common materials. We use proofing systems - small digital machines that allow printing the decor directly on the tube support and which can be calibrated with the machine - to obtain a result representative of what will be achieved with the production machine.

This save a considerable amount of time and a huge cost reduction since it only requires 150g of material! And for our customers, they no longer need to make a trip to the production site! We estimated that the carbon saving corresponds to the lighting of a lamp bulb for 43 years.

Premium Beauty News - What are the first feedbacks?

Valérie Lebelt - I can tell you that customers who do not have the necessary resources to carry out the production test, really appreciated this additional service! For our other customers, it is obviously a change in habits with the fear that the sample received will not be as realistic as the end result.

But actually, there is a keen interest from our customers, because the equation also includes time and cost savings. The development phase being cheaper, the commercial quotation is adjusted and they can receive their sample in just two days, against 4 to 6 weeks before.

Premium Beauty News - What are the next steps?

Valérie Lebelt - The current crisis prompted us to roll out this solution earlier than we had expected. This solution is already available in Europe for laminated tube decorations, it will also be available this summer for plastic tube decorations, but also for the entire development process of a new tube, including in particular the material and the cap - and our collaborative and secure platform will also be open to our customers. Developing a new tube has changed into a collaborative, efficient, quickly led project, resulting in time, money, plastic and carbon emission savings! The last stage will then be its introduction in the United States and then Asia…