Sector News

Beauty brands battle with hygiene and transparency challenges for sustainable packaging gains

March 11, 2023
Energy & Chemical Value Chain

Growing consumer awareness combined with policy crackdown on climate change has prompted personal care packaging to evolve beyond traditional materials. However, hygiene and product safety pose a challenge to new solutions.

PackagingInsights gathers industry intel from beauty and personal care packaging providers Eastman, APC Packaging, SP Group and Cama Group. The companies spotlight the importance of maintaining brand aesthetics while delivering uncompromised performance.

“Beauty brands are looking for packaging that both protects and enhances the product as well as their brand image,” shares Tara Cary, cosmetics and personal care segment manager at Eastman.

“Sustainable packaging is now a ‘must-have’ rather than a ‘nice-to-have’ for the beauty and personal care industry. And it must perform up to consumers’ expectations without compromising aesthetics, safety or performance.”

For Robert Bulla, director of engineering and innovation at APC Packaging, from the look of a product to sustainability, multiple factors can influence the material choice for beauty and personal care packaging.

Most importantly, however, Bulla says the container material must ensure that the brand’s bulk functions with the package. “Chemical resistance, ability to pump or apply correctly and protecting the bulk from air or ultraviolet are imperative,” he says.

Plastic gains and losses
Cama Group’s sales executive manager Cristian Sala tells us that plastic has been the mainstay of the industry for beauty and personal care packaging for decades. However, the company is witnessing a concerted migration from plastic to paper and card for sustainability reasons.

“Sustainability is by far the biggest influencer on material selection these days, especially for secondary packaging,” Sala says.

“But it’s not straightforward to move from plastic to paper or card – you must find the right materials, closures and fixings and balance them with shape and dimensional constraints.”

According to global market researcher Innova Market Insights, plastic will remain prevalent as a cross-industry material. For the 2023 top packaging trends, the researcher identified “Plastics circularization” as leading the sustainability charge.

Although plastic reduction initiatives are gathering pace and renewable alternatives are rising, plastic’s inherent qualities as a lightweight, versatile and hygienic material means that production and consumption continue to increase.

Innova Market Insights also found “Plastic – Not Specified” as the leading packaging material for 64% of the global beauty and personal care products tracked between Q4, 2021 and Q3, 2022.

Additionally, the top environmental sustainability-related claims among global product launches tracked at the same time were Recyclable (15%), Made from Recycled Materials (5%) and Green Dot Certified (5%).

Driven by circularity
Meanwhile, Maria Eugenia Gonzalez Alvarez, marketing director at SP Group highlights that container material choice for personal care items depends not only on product preservation but also factors related to the journey that packaging makes through the distribution chain until it reaches the end client.

“The material must have chemical resistance, good sealing properties – essential for liquid products – and mechanical properties that ensure it doesn’t break in the event of a fall,” Alvarez states.

Moreover, she asserts that consumers have a growing environmental awareness today and the number of gels and shampoos described as “natural” is on the rise.

“This consumer concern extends to the packaging material and its uses. Consumers want the packaging to be environmentally friendly and expect manufacturers to respond with lighter packaging to help reduce the carbon footprint, using alternative environmentally friendly materials or materials that are integrated into the circular economy and are refillable.”

Cary at Eastman reiterates that cosmetics and personal care companies are looking to move forward on their sustainability journey. “For some, this may come in the form of replacing fossil-fuel-based plastic with recycled plastic. For others, recyclability is top of mind.”

“Or, better yet, they may choose to implement a material which hits on both beginning-of-life and end-of-life with a recyclable plastic that is also made from recycled content,” she says.
It’s not straightforward to move from plastic to paper or card (Image credit: Cama Group).

Refillability and recyclability
PET, PE, paper and other materials that promote recyclability and refillability are reportedly fairing well for material selection.

“I have seen more and more PET, modified PET, glass, PP and PE and the many iterations such as clarified to ultra-clarified polypropylenes. These materials are some of the most preferred due to sustainability,” elucidates Bulla.

“I still see PETG and PMMA being used, but these are declining, especially amongst the global brands. Aluminum is also growing, but there are challenges with packages made strictly from aluminum. New materials do not pop up daily, so to my team and me, it’s not always what’s new from a material aspect. What is very important is developing a system to deal with challenges.”

Bulla further underscores that companies must understand that end-consumers are not recyclers but sorters.

“You can produce an airtight, hygienic and sustainable package, but if it is too complicated and not intuitive to the customer on how to sort the package for recycling, we just lost all our efforts to be more sustainable,” he emphasizes.
Customers must intuitively understand how to sort the package for recycling, says Bulla at APC Packaging.

Material innovation
On the solutions front, SP Group offers a recyclable, monomaterial packaging material called Ecodesign that it says is designed for refill or other applications for personal care products and has the bonus of “excellent transparency.”

“Transparency is a highly sought-after characteristic in this sector where design is hugely important for consumers. Monomaterial flexible packaging solutions that have been eco-designed are best suited to the specific needs of this sector. Regarding preservation, they have high-barrier and chemical resistance properties and are watertight and recyclable. They are also aesthetically versatile,” Alvarez details.

Eastman, on the other hand, introduced two new portfolios of resins for cosmetic packaging in 2020 that provide the performance and aesthetics beauty brands need. The resin with molecular recycled content is called Eastman Cristal Renew and RIC1 recyclability is Eastman Cristal One.

Furthermore, Eastman Cristal One Renew offers molecular recycled content and RIC1 recyclability. The latest addition to the Cristal One family of resins is Cristal One E, designed for extrusion blow molded applications, enabling luxury thick-walled bottles and a RIC1 designation.

Cama Group, engineer and producer of complete high-technology secondary packaging systems for the food and non-food markets, shares that while the majority of the hygiene must be delivered by primary packaging, optimized secondary packaging concepts can help ensure that hygiene is maintained by cocooning and protecting the products.

“We are working with new primary-packaging material formulations in many of the markets we serve, so we are in a very good position when the market evolves at a greater pace and material choice begins to stabilize,” says Sala.

Personal care problems
According to Sala, the primary challenge packagers face for beauty and personal care packaging is speed and throughput, which is compounded by various shapes, sizes and product counts.

Eastman’s Cary shares that multi-material construction design for recyclability is challenging. Light sensitivity of product bulk or formulations, the weight of packaging in terms of impact on greenhouse gas emissions and safety to consumers and retailers are other considerations to take into account.

“Many personal care items are used in and around bathing areas and glass breakage poses a real danger. More than half of global consumers are concerned about glass containers shattering if dropped, and nearly one in four have tried to clean up and salvage products after glass breakage occurred,” Cary elaborates.

Bulla at APC Packaging adds: “Prior to sustainability taking on such a presence, [the challenge] has been having a supplier to help maintain a brand’s DNA through decoration creativity. This has been a challenge on the skincare side, but on the color cosmetics side, it is an even steeper hill to climb.”

“Not only in changing from the most common materials used for color cosmetics that are no longer being desired due to sustainability, but still giving the brand’s customers a package, they understand or do not lose an aspect of usability.”

By Radhika Sikaria


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