Market Focus

Beauty & Personal Care Labeling

May 11, 2006

The popularity of beauty and personal care items on store shelves has increased demand for labels and made the industry an important one for converters to recognize and understand.

Above: Award winning beauty labels; Rose de Kiss (left), winner in the World Label Awards offset cosmetics category, is by Eibunsha in Japan. Victoria’s Secret Love Spell, from Dow Industries, USA, won best of show in last year’s TLMI competition.
Beauty and personal care items are a major part of the labeling industry. In the United States, cosmetics make up the third largest market of pressure sensitive labels at about 14 percent, behind only food (at 17 percent) and industrial (at 15 percent). Many converters expect beauty and personal care labeling to grow even further, so it’s important for them to understand the industry, their customers and what can be done to make products stand out on store shelves.

In Europe, the biggest labeling market is food at 25 percent, but Alan Hazlewood, multinational technical manager for The Skanem Group, East Yorkshire, UK, believes beauty (which makes up about 8 percent) is a significant market. He says, “We recognize it as a strategic market. It continues to grow at a reasonable level. That is not the case with food, which has a fairly stable growth rate of about 2 percent.” In comparison, he says he expects the health and beauty care market in Europe to grow at a rate of 5 to 5.5 percent over the next five years.

Beauty and personal care companies mostly use pressure sensitive labels to decorate their products, which sets it apart from other industries. “The industry chooses labeling as the primary means to decorate their products, whereas markets such as food and beverage rely heavily on shrink and cut and stack labeling in addition to pressure sensitive labeling,” says Nick Van Alstine, president of Macaran Printed Products, Cohoes, NY, USA.

Converters point out a few reasons why companies choose labels over other decorating technologies for their beauty and personal care products. John McDowell, sales manager at McDowell Label and Screen Printing, Plano, TX, USA, cites cost effectiveness and flexibility as advantages to using labels. He explains that with labels, “brand owners have the flexibility to introduce multiple SKUs or items in a family of brands without having to guess which SKUs will sell the best or fastest. Additionally, the brand owners have the freedom to very quickly introduce new SKUs in mid-season to capitalize on unforcasted promotional opportunities.”

Jean-Marc Perez, vice president and founder of MEPCO Label Systems, Stockton, CA, USA, says using labels allows companies to apply more colors for less money. Elisha Tropper, president of Prestige Label, Burgaw, NC, USA, agrees that cost is a big factor. He explains that brand owners have a choice of buying preprinted or blank bottles. If they choose blank bottles with labels and the product changes, they can throw out the labels and reuse the bottles. Since the labels are less expensive, they will save money. Tropper points out another reason for the popularity of labels: “Print quality that you can produce directly onto a container is a lot lower than you can get on a label.” Finally, he says turnaround time is much faster with labels than printing on bottles.

The majority of beauty and personal care labeling is done using narrow web. Several reasons for that decision can be cited. Andre Michaud, graphic director at Dow Industries, Wilmington, MA, USA, says beauty and personal care items generally have multiple SKUs so customers order more often for a quick changeover because they don’t want to store too much inventory on their shelves. All those characteristics are more easily accomplished with narrow web.

Ben Rubino, vice president of the decorating solutions group at CCL Label, Farmington, MA, USA, says, “The ability to offer highly customized graphics with multiple print technologies across a multitude of SKUs lends itself very well to narrow to mid web capabilities.”

How to be successful

Not all converters are able to effectively serve beauty and personal care customers. Van Alstine says, “I have found that although most converters want to supply beauty and personal care labeling, many do not have the capabilities to do so. Unlike foods, much of the work in the personal care industry requires combination printing, utilizing rotary screen, hot stamping, as well as four-color process UV flexo typically on film label substrates.”

Tropper believes converters need to have high quality when it comes to the basics, such as color management and registration, before entering the beauty and personal care market. Another issue is price. Tropper says, “Generally you have to be able to work with their creative teams to give them what they want at the price they want. Sometimes label converters don’t respond to those demands. The good ones do and succeed in the market.” He also says that it’s important for converters to understand the nature of the industry. He explains, “The label you do today probably will change in a year. It’s not like the food industry where once you get the label down, you run it for 20 years.”

Tony Arif, director of business development in Eastern Europe for CCL Label, believes that flexibility and quality are critical for converters serving the beauty and personal care industry. McDowell agrees that quality is important. He says, “In order to be successful at serving high-end retail products, you must have a culture of quality that is deeply rooted in your organization.”

Michaud says “being at the forefront of technology both at prepress and at the actual production floor” is most important.

Van Alstine believes several components make for successful converting in the beauty and personal care industry. He says, “Obviously a strong commitment to investing in new technologies, quality and the ability to meet tight deadlines are necessary tools for success. Converters need a spirit of innovation and a willingness to share in development costs with end users. It is also important to be a resource to your customer by keeping abreast of technologies, materials and decorating trends in the industry.”

Rubino says, “You need to have the right people in the right positions that listen to the customer and can execute every day. Operations need to be well equipped with all the tools to support combination print technologies together with front-end graphics and back-end finishing/vision equipment.”

Standing out

With the abundance of beauty and personal care items competing for consumers’ attention, it becomes increasingly important for brand owners to have products that appear different. Converters have several ideas about how to make product packaging stand out to consumers. Rubino says, “The use of multiple colored metallics, color shift inks and high quality combination process work help to bring packaging alive to the consumer.”

According to McDowell, “The ability to provide brand owners multi-dynamic graphics via HDUV [high definition ultraviolet] printing processes, unique textures and tactile-feel images, specialty inks (iridescent, glow-in-the-dark, security, temperature sensitive, etc.), combination printing processes (foil stamping, UV screen printing, doming, embossing), and the use of novelty materials are methods that enable their products to dance off the shelves and into the consumers’ hands.”

Hazlewood says that in Europe, converters are using hot and cold foiling, pearlescent varnishes, scratch-and-sniff effects, holographic materials, variable shadings, matte and gloss varnishes, and vibrant colors and ink systems. He continues, “All health and beauty items are trying to create sensorial effects. They create an attraction for the consumer so when they look at it and smell it, they don’t want to put it down again. We call them touchy, smelly, feely labels.”

Using a variety of techniques can help make stand-out visuals. Arif says, “We are able to combine up to six different techniques in any order of sequence: offset, silkscreen hot/cold foil, flexo, gravure. Any artistic idea can be realized on a label now.”

Anything out of the ordinary can help beauty and personal care items stand out in the eyes of consumers. Therefore, textures and even scents are being used to help differentiate brands. Van Alstine says, “I see texture being used quite a bit utilizing rotary screen technology. With this method, inks and varnishes can be used on both graphics and type to add a tactile feel, a visual dimension, allowing certain graphics to stand out from the background.”

Perez says in-mold labeling can give a textured feel and that bottles can be made soft touch, which gives consumers a different tactile experience.

Leslie Gurland, vice president of Logotech, Fairfield, NJ, USA, says, “Scents are being used in scratch-and-sniff labels. All senses impact the purchasing decision: sight and smell more than others.”

Tropper says the cost for scents needs to go down before it becomes more popular. He says scents are used more in home products such as detergents.


Being a converter for beauty and personal care items isn’t easy. “Personal care and beauty products are probably the most demanding graphically to produce,” says Michaud.

In addition to demanding graphics, Perez points out that brand owners are becoming more creative with their containers. “Because of that,” he says, “sometimes they don’t really understand what the implications are in terms of decoration.”

Gurland agrees. “In order to differentiate yourself on the store shelf, companies are using unique bottle shapes. This is a challenge to converters in terms of substrates used as well as the application of the label,” she says.

Etifix, a FINAT member, won first place in the World Label Awards for this Maybelline tag.
Fitting information while creating a visually appealing label can be difficult. Tropper says, “One challenge is making the finished product appear exactly as it was designed. You can try to pack on a lot of information into a small space. You have to balance all the information while making it an attractive label.” Hazlewood says that in Europe, many languages have to be included on the labels making them more challenging to create.

Producing consistent end products can be a challenge. Van Alstine says, “Converters need to assure color consistency of both spot and four color images not only within the run but from run to run to ensure that the product on the shelf maintains color integrity no matter what production run it came from. Another challenge is matching companion packaging, which is often printed using a different print process such as offset.”

Aside from being graphically difficult, the business aspect of production can have its own set of challenges. Rubino says, “As the outlets for consumer products become narrowed, our customers are faced with the constant pressures to reduce costs without sacrificing product and graphics integrity.”

Working with customers in the beauty and personal care industry can be difficult for converters at times. Michaud believes customers in this industry are more demanding than others. “In beauty and personal care, the labeling on the product is kind of a signature for the product, and so the label needs to get across that it’s a quality product and a high quality company. There’s usually no room for compromise. Every product is a custom product that needs to be engineered. Systems have to be put into place for any converter to deliver a high quality label that meets with the requirements of marketing people at these firms. They’re much more critical of proofs and the end product,” he says.

Rubino agrees. “Beauty and personal care customers operate in a very competitive environment and the decoration is often the first point of reference in the buying decision. Therefore it has to be right — no excuses. Their customer base demands excellence,” he says.

According to Van Alstine, “As a general rule, beauty and personal care customers are more exacting and demand a higher level of quality than most other markets. It is not unusual for a customer to comment on a barely visible defect.”

Hazlewood believes customers in this industry are more demanding because it is a more innovative segment of the marketplace. “Health and beauty care labels are very carefully thought out with a high level of innovation and creativity. I see them as being the drivers of the marketplace,” he says.

Being a demanding customer doesn’t mean a bad one, however. Gurland explains, “They push us past limits we thought possible. This has enabled us to be a premier label manufacturer and branch into product areas we never considered. In some ways they are like the strict teacher you had but remember for helping form who you are.”