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SPECIAL REPORT: Presentation packaging

Lars Scheidweiler, product group manager rigid packaging for Sappi Fine Paper Europe, explains how knowing what you want to achieve, clever design and the quality of the packaging’s finish could make all the difference when it comes to shelf standout

What makes the difference between picking up and purchasing an item and letting your eye continue to scan the shelf? It’s something that connects with you on a ‘gut’ level. Something that triggers an emotion. For some this could be brand recognition that invokes confidence while for others it could be the design that catches their eye. But for all it is the quality of the packaging’s finish that concretes their perception of the value of the product – particularly in today’s saturated and challenging markets.

For a product to sell well, its packaging needs to appeal to all the senses. Packaging that seduces customers emotionally, making skilled use of a variety of print finishing techniques, elicits the famous 'wow' factor and achieves success. This is a trend that all parties in the packaging supply chain are increasingly focused on, particularly in today's fast-paced and highly competitive market. There is no doubt that the buying decision is heavily influenced by the packaging – as confirmed again and again in consumer surveys. According to a recent study by Pro Carton, as much as 70% of buying decisions are driven by emotion, with 52% affected by visual appearance and 33% by the physical properties.

This data leads us to the conclusion that consumers are ultimately more likely to buy a product when the packaging speaks to them on an emotional, visual and tactile level. This is also the reason that package design is—and will remain—such an exciting and lucrative sector for packaging converters, designers, brand owners, paper manufacturers, printers and print finishers.

Striking impact that wows

Packages are most likely to benefit from the “wow” factor, when striking finishing effects make them look like the product contained within or when the package feels so real because of its visual or tactile effects. Unexpected effects and unusual material combinations also add to package attraction. While these effects add cost and time to the package production process, the value they deliver on the shelf is well worth the extra investment.

This is exactly what the Achilles Group, one of Germany's top finishing companies and a long-term Sappi customer, has found. The company reports that the demand from brand owners for relief printing has increased by about 60% over the past two years, closely followed by growing demand for scratch-proof and other structural foils with mini-embossing with an increase of 45%, hot foil embossing in gold growing by 30%, and silver lamination by 24%.

What has really exploded at Achilles is the demand for the relatively new technique of "soft touch" finishing for a very special tactile and sensual experience. Certain varnishes or special foils will cause the surface to feel velvety and soft. Soft touch finishing, along with UV spot varnish, foil stamping and blind embossing, are very popular in the production of sophisticated book covers, for example. For even more impact at the point of sale, Achilles has been able to determine the effect of the individual finishing techniques by target demographic. For men between 18 and 30 years old, textured varnish combined with relief varnish dominate; whereas for women of the same age, glittering effects, fluorescent colours and partial flocking effects draw the most attention. For this age group, special effect finishes are also popular. These include soft touch foils, structured foils and blind embossing. The fact is, consumers young and old are drawn to packaging that is more than just smooth paper.

Providing these kinds of eye-popping effects for the consumer requires collaboration across the entire supply chain and the participation of finishing experts. It is this interaction that makes outstanding and creative results possible.

Collaborative approach for clever results  

An example of the results achievable by just such a collaborative approach is Sappi’s Meteor experiment with Packaging Printer of the Year 2013 AR Packaging Group and other PrintCity partners. Developed for fictional chocolate packaging, the project turned the initially contradictory sounding concept of a polygonal box created by an automated manufactured, process into a commercially achievable reality.

The project showcased how efficient inline production with the maximum range of special finishing effects are not mutually exclusive, but rather, complement one another perfectly. The centerpiece of the project was the Gallus ICS 670 printing machine that delivers rotogravure quality in cost effective smaller runs. It features seven “easy value add” platforms that allow for fast process changeover, plus five flexo modules, cold foil and hot foil stamping modules, an in-line cutter, inline punching and embossing station, inline stripping station and cantilever arm. For the project, holographic cold foil, two different hot foils, two pigment varnishes, UV gloss and a tactile soft dispersion material were applied along with various blind embossing, die-cutting and grooved finishes in just one inline operation.

A major challenge was to design clear motif edges that could be defined using cold and hot foil finishing, embossing and varnishes effects. Finished designs were rendered as refined screen versions and then finalized using Esko Visualizer, a 3D display solution. At the digital stage the parties involved were able to examine and modify the interaction of the individual finishes, view their appearance in various ambient lighting conditions and determine the most appropriate technical specifications for the final product.

The polygonal shape of the packaging with its filigree, straight-cut and inwardly bevelled sides – reminiscent of a cut diamond or a meteor falling from the sky – reveals the reflective finishes to their best advantage. While the successful completion of the project proves that brand owners do not need to settle for “common” boxes but can take advantage of these sophisticated production processes for increased shelf appeal without breaking the bank on cost.

Increasing awareness and brand value

The Meteor sample packaging increases brand awareness and strengthens the perceived value of and appreciation for the product it contains. Packaging must appeal to customers with all of their senses, and that's exactly what it does. It is an ideal example of a unique value-added box design that sets the tone for the future of high-quality folding cartons.

It is now up to branded goods companies, graphic designers and packaging developers to transfer this concept to other market segments such as luxury drink containers and sophisticated cosmetics boxes. These sectors all benefit from the ability to keep process costs under control while creating an intricately finished packaging with an exceptionally unusual shape and high shelf appeal.

An efficient yet unusual shape, together with its automated implementation in production, opens up new options for individualized and even personalized packaging. The project delivers compelling proof that standardized workflows can be used for unusual packaging shapes, with no compromise in quality. Leaving behind the principle of "square and practical is best" creatives will now be able to enter new realms of magic on global retail shelves with attractive and unique concepts inspired by the Meteor packaging project.

Special finishes drive brand value

There is no question that special effect finishes attract greater attention, increase the value of the product or packaging, and can finally boost sales. Brands that want to differentiate themselves from the competition are increasingly using finishing effects that appeal to the senses – primarily the visual and tactile senses, but also smell, taste and hearing – to evoke interest in the product. Special finishes such as embossed foil and others are more than a three-dimensional attention-grabber and a packaging element that reflects higher quality and exclusivity. Showcasing these is the right substrate and the combination collectively engages the tactile senses and elicits curiosity and playfulness. It is how designers and brand owners embrace these opportunities that will help them set themselves apart from their competitors.

See also the case study for the Louis Roederer champagne carton pictured above.


30 June 2014 - Lars Scheidweiler Sappi Fine Paper Europe, product group manager rigid packaging