It’s not so easy to make a symbol evolve! That’s probably the reason why, as far as lipsticks are concerned, brands remain cautious about innovation. However, their suppliers seem have several original projects “in the pipe”.
Tubes: the sophistication race
As far as the lipstick primary packaging (the tube) is concerned, British packaging group Rexam is the uncontested leader. Its strong position was built and consolidated during the 1990s, in particular with the acquisitions of the French company Reboul, and of the giant Chinese packaging maker, Derkwey.
“Today, our strength lies in our industrial presence worldwide (Europe, USA, Asia, South America) that we have consolidated through the creation of a global platform for our mechanisms,” explains Pierre Marand, Make Up Business Unit Director at Rexam.
However, Rexam’s current strength also lies in the group’s research and development capabilities. “There are still huge innovation opportunities in this segment, and that’s exactly what we demonstrated with the surface coating we applied on Dior’s High Shine tubes,” says Pierre Marand.
Additional steps forward, in particular in the field of finishing, are likely to come soon. “Packaging innovation on the segment remains challenging since traditional gestures linked to the product use have become almost natural to most women. But it’s also a real opportunity for us. We have always been working hard on these issues, and this year will bring the opportunity to communicate about that,” Pierre Marand adds.
According to Jacques Cohen, president of Axilone USA: “It is clear that state-of-the-art technologies and processes regarding metal and plastic transformation and finishing focus on lipstick tubes. This aim is to produce a beautiful object, which brings women the functionalities they’re expecting, while protecting formulations. Therefore, it is necessary to perfectly handle a variety of manufacturing processes and technologies. As far as finishing is concerned, it is required to be the best in all technical areas.”
From this point of view, the latest lipstick Axilone developed for MAC is an epitome of this ability to handle a multiplicity of state-of-the-art technologies. The product required lacquering, hot stamping and many other technologies, in addition to the manufacture and assembly of plastic and metal components.
Local and global
For packaging producers, the capacity to supply global customers is a key factor of success today. For Alcan Packaging Beauty, it has been one of the main axes of its strategy since 2006, as it has been for Rexam. “For each geographical area, Europe, Americas, Asia, we’ll be able to supply this kind of service to our major customers,” explains Stéphane Tondenier, Alcan’s Vice-President Sales & Marketing Fragrance & Cosmetics Worldwide.
Alcan aims to become one of the three leading companies on this segment in 2009. “We have multiplied our efforts in order to reach this goal,” Stéphane Tondenier underlines. “All or factories will be able to offer multiple injection and finishing technologies, using our industrial presence worldwide where the know-how accumulated for several years in the perfumery, skincare and cosmetic segments is one of main assets.”
Thanks to this strategy, Alcan is currently involved in eight major global launches. “We expect to double our lipsticks sales in 2009 compared to 2008,” says Stéphane Tondenier.
“It is clear that the competition is mainly about decoration and finishing,” he comments.
Of course, the capacity to produce globally is not the only factor of success. Besides companies such as Rexam, Risdon, Axilone, HCP, Shia Shin and Alcan, there are other operators are playing their cards right.
For instance, the German packaging manufacturer Oekametall holds “four main assets” according to its CEO, Gerald Oehlhorn: “a well tested mechanism, with no lubricant of course; a fully integrated manufacturing process featuring the injection, the finishing and assembling; being a family owned company with a rapid decision-making process; and being a German company that was able to adapt itself to international constraints and other cultures.”
Shifting traditional usage
On the other hand, Stéphane Tondenier is much more cautious about “mechanical” innovations and possible evolutions of traditional gestures linked to the use of lipsticks! “Of course, we have several solutions in stock, but lipsticks remain a very traditional object, and major changes are unlikely to happen, even if new attempts were recently launched on the market,” he says.
At Texen’s, innovation is centred on the industrial process. “We have developed a patented mechanism, that allows us to remove one piece from the process compared to our competitors,” says Georges Lachas, sales director. But this does not prevent the company to explore alternative solutions for its products. “Our main evolutions are oriented towards possibilities of double-headed products,” he adds.
For Eric Bigotte, Risdon (40% of the turnover made with lipstick tubes): “As far as we are concerned, innovation consisted in the launch of a ‘one handed’ mechanism, illustrated by Avon’s ‘Pro to Go’. Risdon is the inventor and holds the patent of the slide-up button tube, and we are developing a gloss and a mascara with the same technology”.
However, according to Jacques Cohen, Axilone USA, if the one-handed lipstick tube is really an interesting idea, it is unlikely to develop further. “There are obvious marketing arguments, but our customers usually do not mention this characteristic in their specifications for new developments.”
Same analysis by Georges Lachas, Texen: “The one-handed model developed for Chanel seems to be a success, but so far, other illustrations are limited to lip protection and lip care, and apart from Chanel it’s hard to find any make-up product using it.”
Lipsticks for tough economic times
“Lipstick is a different product within the cosmetics and make-up categories,” explains Jacques Cohen, Axilone USA. For many women, it’s an accessible luxury that will last. “In the USA, lipstick retail prices are usually less than 20 dollars, even for prestigious brands, allowing women to use several shades. And the price is not yet expensive enough for preventing women to indulge themselves with these products”.
An opinion that is shared by Florence Robilliart, Intercos: “We think that make-up, as a whole, will be less impacted than other beauty segments. Lipstick in particular remains unavoidable within women’s daily make-up routine”.
Eric Bigotte, Risdon, is more cautious: “Lipstick will be impacted by the current economic situation because consumers are increasing lost within a huge offer, as they are with fragrances. However, it’s true that lipstick tubes are increasingly assimilated to jewellery, matching with particular social status and with a high sensitivity to fashion. I would not be surprised if celebrity lipstick and make-up lines would appear on the market.”
And what about the impact of gloss products? According to George Lachas, the question does not really need to be debated. “Gloss products have certainly conquered some market shares to the detriment of lipsticks, but global sales volumes clearly exceed the initial volume of lipsticks alone. Gloss products gained market shares, in particular with women of less than 30 years, but remain complementary to the use of a lipstick. Gloss users did not give up lipstick, its more a matter of diversification than a substitution”.