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Plastic caps essential to health, beauty end market

ROSEMONT, ILL. — When it comes to discussing caps and closures, beverage is usually king, but it isn’t the only segment. Health and beauty also generates plenty of buzz across the caps universe.

Sushil Raghupathy, executive director of global supplier technical excellence for Estee Lauder Cos., discussed current trends in health and beauty closures during a keynote address Sept. 12 at Plastics Caps & Closures 2014, held in Rosemont.

Estee Lauder products are sold in 150 countries and include skin and hair care, makeup and fragrances. The company had $10.8 billion in sales in its most recent fiscal year.

Closures play a key role in the branding and function of the products, according to Raghupathy.

“We have to delight the customer with the packaging we put out there,” he said. “The closure plays a key role in that effort.”

The result is the design of caps and closures with intricate components that are visually stimulating with a high level of functionality.

And in a market where new products are being developed virtually daily, speed is key.

“The window is shrinking to launch and we have to develop products in a very short time,” Raghupathy noted.

The health and beauty end market also is challenged with keeping up with the latest trends in fashion. This is coupled with a public whose tastes can seemingly shift with the wind.

“We have to try to convey current trends throughout packaging,” Raghupathy explained.

A key challenge for Estee Lauder in the production of its closures remains the cost of materials. This remains a factor in packaging decisions as the company moves to put its products on the market.

It ultimately can have an impact on the company’s supply chain.

“We have to elevate the technical skills to achieve what may have seemed impossible in the beginning of the development process,” Raghupathy said.

Moreover, Raghupathy noted that packaging challenges must be addressed upfront to mitigate risks. To achieve this, designers can consider unique resin solutions and the use of rapid prototyping.

Evolving the brand with plastics

 

Image By: Estee Lauder Cos. Estee Lauder's Tory Burch fragrance.

A key aspect of a cap and closure for a company like Estee Lauder is its use as a part of the development of the brand identity.

 

“The caps and closures go through a lot of different iterations to carry a brand like the company’s Tory Burch line,” Raghupathy said, adding that the use of materials is very important for packaging in this segment.

Over the years, materials have evolved and the health and beauty segment has been able to use more and more plastic in its caps and closures, replacing glass, steel and other materials.

“We are able to use clear resins that can be used to create a closure that is highly functional, light in weight and that looks just like glass,” noted Raghupathy. “The more advanced the materials are, the more opportunities we have to develop plastic packaging and closures that are compatible with products that were once packaged in glass.”

Raghupathy pointed out that the life of a cap, and the overall package, can vary across the Estee Lauder product line. Some products are repackaged every couple of years to have an aesthetically pleasing appearance on retail shelves. Other products are packaged in a familiar brand-conscious fashion and changes occur less frequently.

That is why packaging, including the caps and closures, are considered and discussed at the very beginning of the product development cycle.  At Estee Lauder, it is a dialogue that starts at the product’s inception.

Raghupathy noted that the company handles its designs internally and it outsources the production of its caps and closures to suppliers who provide the components.

“Ultimately, the packaging cycle is similar to any retail brand,” he said. “We are catering to consumers at the end of the day.”

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