Market Focus

Beauty and Personal Care Labeling

September 2, 2009

Consumers, brand owners and converters are adjusting to the shifting outlook of this lucrative market and niche of the label industry.

Beauty and Personal Care Labeling

Consumers, brand owners and converters are adjusting to the shifting outlook of this lucrative market and niche of the label industry.

By Steve Katz

Beauty. To some, it’s in the eye of the beholder; for others, it’s only skin deep. To the label converter, it represents a viable niche of the industry, as products designed to enhance, maintain and preserve beauty require labels that can be intricate and elegant, or plain and clean. And as the demands of the beauty and personal care products consumer shift, so does the label printer, adjusting to the fads and trends of the day.

With products exposed to water, durable films are an effective substrate for beauty and personal care products, says Avery Dennison’s Renae Kulis.
Beauty and personal care products can be divided into two categories, mass and prestige. Under the “mass” heading, as the name implies, are the products targeting the mass market, the average consumer. These products are the ones found lining the shelves in the local supermarket or department store. “Prestige” products, on the other hand, are usually those purchased in specialty stores, or perhaps they’re behind the counter in a high-end department store, and are sold to the consumer not by a cashier but perhaps by a “cosmetics consultant,” for example. And as one might infer, price is a differentiating factor. Mass products are manufactured to be affordable to the average consumer, while prestige brands are targeting those that have the resources to pay for a significantly higher-priced product.

James Leyden and Anthony Rawlings, in their book Skin Moisturization, talk not only about the differences between the mass and prestige beauty products, but also the differences in the role packaging plays. The authors write, “Prestige products certainly cost a great deal more than mass market products, but there is no simple measure to assess relative value. However, prestige products are typically more complex than mass market products and are sold in more elaborate containers and packaging with the promise of a wider range of skin benefits. Many women see prestige products as special and likely to do more for their skin than less expensive mass brands. There is an emotional element in the consumer assessment of prestige products. Using a special moisturizer can make a difference to self-image and confidence.”

An emotional market

One of the challenges for label converters, whether they’re printing labels for the mass or prestige market, is to tap into that emotional element of the consumer – specifically the one that’s going to lead to a purchase. And this is no easy task. There’s a myriad of products and competition is steep. Similar to food, there are legal requirements for beauty and personal care labels that need to be met, so there’s more to the label than simply selling.

Sophie Maxwell, head of creative insight for Pearlfisher, a design and marketing agency based in London, England, talks about the nature of the beauty industry, and what makes for an effective label. “For any brand a clear differentiating message is important, within personal care it’s now imperative. The beauty marketplace is so diverse, complex and competitive, you need a clear truth at the heart of your product to show you are truly effective. You also need to create a desirable experience – approaching your brand and branding holistically. Personal care is an increasingly experiential sector and needs to be powerfully functional and resonate emotionally at the same time,” she says.

Dove, according to Maxwell, has become an iconic example of this, an enduring product that has created a far greater message through its secondary communication, one that talks positively about self acceptance, diversity and the “everywoman.” She says, “While the advertising campaign powerfully highlights the brand nature as an everyday icon, the packaging and labeling remains simply and slickly functional, with soft touch finishes being evocative of its desired effect on the skin.”

This photo from Avery Dennison provides an example of product differentiation within a brand, as well as the use of gleaming effects for personal care labels.
Holly Young, president of Hirschhorn and Young Graphics, New York, NY, USA, a consulting and packaging design firm for the beauty and personal care industry, discusses the balance a beauty and personal care label has to have – tapping into the consumer’s emotions while adhering to regulations. “One of the biggest challenges we face is the issue of all of the ‘stuff’ that is mandatory on packaging, along with the aesthetics, brand identity and making an instant impact on the consumer,” Young says. “There are so many products on the shelves these days that the consumer is overwhelmed. The brand needs to catch their attention in under seven seconds, convince them to buy, and all the while comply with all of the regulations. And these regulations are different for different countries and different types of products (such as cosmetic-drugs). I firmly believe that the designers today are very talented and they need to understand what the regulations are up front. By knowing and understanding what is required they can create and maintain their brand identity within the framework of what is required.”

Young says that there is some debate over whether products in the personal care category should be considered over-the-counter drugs. Examples include antiperspirants, deodorants, acne products, sunscreens and anti-dandruff products. “It is critical to understand the differences between the two categories and then to know and understand the labeling differences,” she says, adding, “These differences are very significant in terms of graphics and wording requirements. Through the many beauty products and cosmetics trade organizations, there is an initiative under way for global harmonization of regulations, but we do have a lot of work to do with this. Again, knowledge and understanding is the key to keeping your package beautiful and compliant.”

Foil is back

Seven seconds is not a long time. With the window of opportunity being relatively small to make a beauty product stand out from the rest, it should come as no surprise that some brand owners are choosing to incorporate eye-catching sheen to generate shelf-appeal. And converters are reporting that foil stamping is a preferred choice.

Jeff Salisbury, president of Label Impressions, Orange, CA, USA, says that foil has made somewhat of a comeback in the beauty products niche of the labeling industry. “Over the years we’ve seen a move out of, and now back into, foil stamping and screening. We’ve seen a move to more color and finer detail. As our industry know-how, substrates, inks, and coatings get more sophisticated, so do the designs and special effects that the graphics people design for,” Salisbury says.

Walter Zeek, president and CEO, Kopco Graphics, Fairfield, OH, USA, says that cold foiling in particular has emerged as the process of choice for Kopco’s beauty and personal care customers, and cost is a major factor behind the trend. “Cold foil stamping has rapidly gained popularity versus traditional hot stamping. Reasons for this include the costs associated with the high price of rotary hot stamp tools, often in the several thousand dollar range, versus the printing plates used for cold foil stamping, that are only a few hundred dollars at most,” Zeek says.

Kopco Graphics recently purchased a Mark Andy 2200 which included a specially designed cold foil unit that Zeek says is capable of producing very sharp and crisp cold foil printed labels. “We have found that 99 percent of our cold foil customers are not able to tell the difference between the cold foil and their hot stamp labels. The addition of the cold foil unit on our press has given us a tremendous advantage in the marketplace. Our production teams at both plants have focused on improving production methods to offset increased costs. Customers are extremely cost conscious and Kopco has been able to control our cost through these increased efficiencies,” he adds.

Lori Smith, marketing manager, Target Labels and Packaging, Salt Lake City, UT, USA, says a certain variation of a cold foil application has been a big hit with customers. “We recently converted a high-end beauty product using a foil paper with a matte laminate, and the combination is really impressive. While it costs a little bit more, it really gives off a very elegant, rich look. I think it’s a look that people in that market are looking for.”

Green and clean

Pearlfisher’s Sophie Maxwell says that purity, ingredients and the environment are an ever increasing focus for the beauty and personal care markets. “As with food, consumers are increasingly more educated about ingredients, they want to see the connection back to the source and are no longer so blinded by science, technical terms and jargon they don’t understand. We now have a long-term view of product effects and benefits, want the best for ourselves and also have a growing focus on the environmental consequences,” she says.

Rebecca Kerschinske, VP sales and marketing at Lauterbach Group, Sussex, WI, USA, talks about sustainability’s role in the company’s beauty customers. “Many clients are rebranding right now. The trend appears to focus on natural and organic features of their products with an emphasis on green or sustainability-related aspects of the product. This is impacting the label and flexible packaging material choices, as well as the design,” she says.

While using certain words and phrases on a label like “organic” or “all-natural” is popular among brand owners, they cannot be just thrown around. “Beauty and personal care products must follow FDA guidelines for what information needs to be included on labels. Complying with these guidelines is essential for remaining on store shelves. Words such as ‘organic’ are prohibited unless authorized; other verbiage such as ‘made with’ is under intense scrutiny with new regulations that are in the works,” says Walter Zeek.

Zeek points out that a popular substrate for beauty and personal care labels is ultra-clear film, which creates the no-label look. “With the use of UV inks and opaque whites, high quality, clear labels seem to be the trend for products such as shampoos, conditioners, lotions, etc.,” he says.

Renae Kulis, household and personal care segment manager for Avery Dennison, Mentor, OH, USA, talks about what makes films an attractive substrate for personal care labels. “Films are conformable and durable, while offering that high-end look. Importantly, they are moisture resistant, and with so many personal care products like shampoos and bathroom products in close proximity to water, they maintain their branding throughout their use.”

Kulis also observes that brands are using pressure sensitive technology as a means to penetrate the market. She explains that as a means of keeping customers from moving to another brand, CPGs are creating a multitude of products within their brand. “The nature of pressure sensitive label printing makes it very convenient for late-stage differentiation of a label. It could be as simple as changing one roll or one color,” she says, adding that some prestige products are now hitting the mass market stores and are effectively using the no-label look to offer a clean, high-end appearance.

Leslie Gurland, president of Logotech, Fairfield, NJ, USA, notices that the design trends among her beauty customers have taken a “less is more” approach. “Trends we’re seeing with our customers in this market are focused on minimalization. They want their labels to look simple and clean. Also, some customers are considering labels made from PCW (post consumer waste) materials, but the price is still high,” Gurland says, adding, “One of our biggest challenges is trying to provide our customers that are selling to the mass market a high end label for very low price.”


It seems the pricing challenge is everywhere. “We always look to the highest performing materials but often find our clients want a champagne product on a beer budget,” Jeff Salisbury notes. “Competitors often come in with pricing based on lower performing options such as reduced number of colors or cheaper materials that may not be ideal for the client’s products. We try to present an overall cost savings to our clients but often it can be challenging to get the client to look beyond price and evaluate total cost.”

Zeek says that Kopco has noticed an increase in popularity for shorter runs, as companies are paying closer attention to inventory control during these trying economic times. He also points out that price and lead times are also becoming huge factors in how companies choose suppliers.

“Overall, the health of this segment of the labeling industry seems to show an increase of purchases based on value. Companies are going lean, and competition is based on price and lead times. Price and value seem to be the key influences of personal care choices and this bodes well for additional growth in the private label industry,” Zeek says.

Salisbury points out that turnaround time has become an important factor in light of the recession. “The biggest trend we’ve seen is a need for faster turnaround as clients wait until the very last minute to order in an effort to preserve cash and reduce inventories. We’re also seeing something we haven’t seen before – lots of quoting and fewer jobs won per quote. Clients are asking for several variations of a quote – often a dozen or more variations. We see a lot more caution out there. People want to see where they can trim costs and are careful to get it right the first time,” he says.

Observations and projections

Converters note the impact the recession has had on its beauty customers. And brand owners are making adjustments to appeal to – and keep – their customers. According to a recent study conducted by Kline and Company, a worldwide research and consulting firm based in Little Falls, NJ, USA, US sales in the cosmetics and toiletries market grew only 0.3 percent in 2008, the lowest since 1991.
The results of the study point to consumers showing a preference for competitively priced products from the mass sector, with premium product sales being affected heavily by the negative market conditions.

Consumers have become more discerning of the beauty products they’re buying, says Sophie Maxwell of Pearlfisher.
“The new frugal mind set imposed by the recession has altered spending and product consumption habits, some of which will probably continue into the foreseeable future,” says Nancy Mills, Kline’s industry manager, consumer products. “Many people have traded down on certain products, and as they get accustomed to buying some lower-priced or private-label products, and shop more in the lower-priced channels, they might well continue to with those habits after the tough times have subsided. To be successful, companies will likely continue to infuse the mass segment with more sophisticated products to compete with luxury products,” she adds.

Kline projects a moderate growth over the next five years. However, years 2009-10 are predicted to be sluggish with growth coming in the following years. Kline also predicts the growth will be affected negatively by stricter legislation on claims and ingredients in addition to the new consumer mind set of cautiousness on spending.

Nica Lewis, head consultant for Mintel Beauty Innovation, Chicago, IL, USA, a supplier of consumer, product and media information, also provides insight into the shifting landscape of beauty products. She says, “The beauty industry is showing that it is more than skin deep, with a number of initiatives that support economic, social and environmental sustainability. Cosmetics and skin care products will add real value to their product lines by becoming advocates for change.”