February 3, 2021

Hidden elements that make a difference to packaging quality – Part 2

In Part 1 of the series, we likened the unseen parts of a top-quality pack to the beautiful pieces of a luxury watch that one seldom sees. We looked mostly at metal-based components and how substandard items can lead to problems not initially evident at production time.

When premium brands are developing new packaging, they will often focus on the physical, external materials and accessories. This is an easier way to assess the quality of the pack as a whole, based on its look and feel. However, for a pack to really be high-quality, there is frequently more than meets the eye. 

Often, tiny elements and hidden materials can be used to improve the quality and durability of a pack. These may be internal materials or well-thought components that elevate a pack from ordinary to exceptional. While most consumers probably won’t even notice these, like the proud watchmakers and their internal parts, it is these elements that reinforce a brand’s luxury identity through its packaging.

Luxury substrate for premium packaging


Substrates and materials play a direct role in packaging quality

Papers, glues, foils, laminates and inks can all improve the quality of a pack without the consumer being aware of their importance. Often, these different elements rely on compatibility with one another. Frequently, they come from various manufacturers around the globe and when being used in a luxury pack, compatibility with the substrate they are being applied to needs to be properly tested. 

Papers generally come coated or uncoated; their surface will determine whether laminates may de-laminate or bubble after application. This can depend on the lamination material, the application process or both. Environmental testing at extreme temperatures and humidity will generally expose these issues. If not identified prior to production these problems may only arise many months later, possibly in-store or even after the consumer has the product.

Papers, like inks, have UV-inhibitors so as to ensure that their colour fastness remains. It is important to ensure that the paper is of sufficient quality so as not to lose colour before a reasonable time has passed. Over time and depending on conditions, most papers will fade over time to some degree. Conducting a lightfastness test (basically, accelerated aging) is an important quality parameter to address before production.

Inks and foils on a luxury pack


Inks and foils need to undergo tests too

The adherence of inks to the surface of the papers may also become an issue if not pretested. If the Ink rubs off over time it can look very unsightly as well as possibly stain other items. Transit testing, which mimics rough transportation as well as proper rub tests, will show if the inks and surfaces are suitable. 

Laminates will also scuff in these tests. Foils may also rub or peel away from their substrate if not properly matched or applied. To test this a 3M Tape test is used. It is not necessarily the case that more expensive foils, inks or papers means more compatibility between components. All these elements must be tested every time new material batches are used as batches of the same materials can behave differently.

Glue machine in packaging factory


Glue is an unassuming component that we consider carefully

Another complex area that can create quality issues such as delamination, is glue. There are preferred types of glues for certain papers and substrates but these should only be used as a guide. Proper environmental testing must always be done. While problems in delamination may be related to the glue type, it is also important to review how the glue is applied if problems are identified.

Matching the compatibility of all these elements does take a further effort in sampling and testing but it is the kind of rigorous review that separates a luxury pack from a more standard one. Consumers of luxury products often will hold the packaging as a keepsake or collectible. 

It can be damaging to a luxury brand if the package does not stand a reasonable test of time. NPD teams will often have the dilemma of achieving cost targets versus long-term quality targets but like the famous Swiss watch, perhaps erring on the side of quality is a better bet.

High-tech equipment in packaging manufacturing plant



IPL Packaging is a global luxury packaging supplier with offices in the USA, Europe, Mexico, Asia and Africa. Approved manufacturing is available in several Asian countries, as well as sites in Eastern Europe. We create bespoke, tailored and exclusive packaging for any premium or luxury brand and manage the entire process, from conceptualisation and design to production and delivery.

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