Luxury is not just what's on the inside. How high-quality brands package their products plays an integral part in establishing and retaining a luxury identity. Emma-Jane Batey speaks to established and start-up luxury brands to see how packaging portrays luxuriousness without breaking the bank.
High-end beauty products and hand-made chocolates are among the most luxurious of all consumer goods. Customers will pay more for products that promise – and deliver – something better than your average ‘I-picked-this-up-at-the-supermarket’ treat, with carefully considered packaging an important aspect of this transaction.
So what is it about well-designed packaging that says 'luxury'? It seems there are various ways in which brands can use their packaging to portray a luxury product within, and it's not just the traditional embellishments of embossing, ribbons and thicker materials.
For artisan chocolate brand Harris & James, based in the beautiful Suffolk seaside town of Southwold, choosing the perfect packaging was as high on their to-do list as sourcing fair-trade cocoa beans. Marketing director Daniel Smith explains how Harris & James' quest for quality is evident across the product development: “Our brand is very much about being 'crafted', from the beans to the production process to our shops themselves. There's a very natural feel; our approach to luxury is to make the most delicious, sustainable chocolate, as well as our various coffee beans, with a natural feel. Luxury to us is not about being glossy and wasteful; it's about being hand-crafted.”
This natural yet luxurious approach is why Harris & James chose textured craft paper for its chocolate bar packaging, with a natural wax greaseproof paper directly in contact with the product. Smith says, “There's been a real revolution in packaging for the luxury food sector in recent years; it's accepted that packaging can be more natural and rustic-looking, yet, still luxurious. As the artisan movement continues to deliver delicious and interesting products that are not mass-market, our use of brown craft paper – a naturally biodegradable product – is increasingly popular.”
He also acknowledges that it is the attention to detail that continues to make artisan products stand out on the shelf, a strategy that is clearly working as Harris & James rapidly expands across the region. “Although customers can be more forgiving of a hand-crafted product, we wanted to strongly create the link between our artisan chocolate and a true luxury product. Our packaging makes that link without looking too corporate, and that is a key reason why we're enjoying strong commercial growth.”
Another area that uses luxury packaging and is enjoying rapid commercial growth is the natural beauty products industry. Miles away from the hippy organic 'local health food shop' style beauty products of previous decades, the noughties and beyond have seen a huge boost in small-batch, highly effective and incredibly desirable skincare.
London-based Sister & Co is a great example of a fresh, new luxury skincare brand that is perfectly in tune with what consumers want, from millennials to baby boomers and everyone in between. Sister & Co founder Sophie Thompson says, “We are passionate about the ability of food-grade nutrient-rich natural ingredients in their raw and undiluted state. Packed with fully intact vitamins and minerals, our honest skincare is one of very few organic and highly desirable skincare ranges. We believe in truth and transparency in the personal care industry, with absolutely no compromise on luxury.”
This is perfectly evident in the packaging chosen by the brand, which is stocked in respected stores including Liberty, Fenwick’s, Anthropologie and Oliver Bonas. With its range relying on high-quality natural products such as raw coconut oil and mineral-rich Himalayan salt, its packaging reflects its clean, effective yet luxurious approach. Thompson continues, “We love the look and feel of our packaging. We mainly use glass, which is environmentally sound and gives a lovely heavy quality to our products, enhancing our high-end appeal. Making sure our customers feel good about every element of using Sister & Co is very important to us, from the sustainability to the performance of the packaging and the ingredients within. We are proving that natural skincare can be wonderfully luxurious.”
Start-up skincare brands, particularly those that are keen to differentiate themselves through short-run production and high-end ingredients, are also appreciating that luxury packaging gives added value to their products.
Fast-growing French handmade soap brand Pure Rok uses locally sourced natural ingredients including charcoal, lavender and oats to create beautiful products that deliver healthcare benefits for conditions such as eczema. Pure Rok founder Katrina Wylie is vocal about the brand's dedication to natural luxury, with the role of the packaging being to create “an important first impression”.
She adds, “Our brief is simple – to make natural products that use the purest, best possible ingredients and enhance the feeling of well-being in the most positive way. Our partly hand-made packaging is a deliberate strategy; it gives us great quality control. Every hand-made product deserves to be hand-packaged, and we're able to check that every product adheres to our strict quality promise.”
Wylie notes that the many boutique hotels that purchase Pure Rok soaps, liquid soaps and skincare products are keen to add value to their customers' experience, so choosing a luxury, artisan brand is a conscious choice. “Our hand-made packaging is certainly labour-intensive but it gives us enormous flexibility, and reinforces brand loyalty and interest in our products. Many of our clients are in the high-end leisure and hospitality sector, and it became obvious early on that we have a product line that lends itself to the discerning client. From a technical perspective, we often source new packaging materials, and find new ways to present our products using pieces of material, or by tying ribbons and brown paper together. Conventional? No. But unique? Certainly.”
Ambassador for beauty
It's not just newer luxury brands that appreciate beautiful packaging. The English Soap Company is 'inspired by the wonderful designs from a bygone age' and makes its luxurious soaps using vintage soap moulds in Kent. Delightfully packaged and generously scented with perfumes blended by expert ‘noses’, The English Soap Company offers a curated range including 200g bath soap bars and boxes of three 100g guest soaps, all with the most ‘bright, detailed and eye-catching’ packaging. Its products are available across high-end UK department stores, including the independent Jarrold of Norwich.
The English Soap Company's managing director, Oliver Butts, says, “Our packaging is the ambassador for our brand; it's the first thing potential buyers and consumers see. It's what draws them in to find out more and is a major factor in their decision to buy. It is very important that our packaging is emblematic of the values of the product inside, which, in our case, is high-quality and luxurious.”
The key elements of The English Soap Company's packaging development were ‘sustainability, cost-effectiveness and giftability’, with the tactile and beautiful twist-close design meeting all these and more. Butts explains, “Our soaps are intended to be sold as gifts, so this was a big factor when choosing the material. We also wanted the packaging to be practical, refraining from using too much packaging that would overshadow the product, as well as being more environmentally friendly. Fortunately, we find sustainability and effective packaging goes hand in hand. We also have great feedback about the sheer beauty of our packaging images. We take great pleasure in creating designs that match up to the scents they represent, and our customers tell us that this is a great selling point.”