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February 23, 2023

IPL Perspectives: Lauren Watt & Jason Roberts

What are the most notable differences in packaging for the luxury market vs. the FMCG market?

Lauren Watt

Senior Graphic & Packaging Designer

Since joining IPL Packaging, my eyes have been opened to the endless possibilities for a luxury pack.

In the past, I worked predominantly on packaging designs for FMCG products, with some experience in luxury packaging design too. It’s therefore easy to note the differences in the categories when it comes to design and substrate differentiation.

For me, the most notable differentiator is the time and effort spent on the development process for luxury packaging. Material and substrate choices, fitments, and finishes are all vastly different from what is typically used for an FMCG pack. Design, materials, textures, and colours are carefully considered in order to convey exceptional quality, durability and high-end appeal to the luxury consumer seeking ‘something special’ and unique.

The main cues for luxury packaging in connecting with a high-end market are extraordinary differentiation (the art of differentiating a premium from a standard product), high-quality packaging materials, minimalism, and authenticity.

Importantly, the creation of a luxury packaging solution doesn’t always mean the project has a high budget. Often the real challenge and excitement on the design side are when budget constraints require us to be cost-effective and innovative whilst still portraying a premium look and feel. The pack should have a sense of craftsmanship and allow for a memorable ‘reveal’ and unboxing experience. The use of print embellishments such as UV varnishes, foiling and embossing on luxury product packaging also help to catch the eye and allow the product to stand out from the competition.

Material choices for FMCG are often less expensive, with factors such as functionality and protection generally considered more important than high-end finishes. In most instances, FMCG packaging is designed for single-use and packaging costs need to be kept low. This type of packaging needs to quickly and effectively communicate what the product is and its purpose.

As there are generally many options in one product category (take toothpaste, for example) it can be increasingly difficult for consumers to make a choice regarding their purchase. Packaging designers and suppliers, therefore, need to prioritise simple, functional solutions with stand-out appeal. Care also needs to be taken in laying out the information so that the pack does not appear overcrowded.

One thing is certain, for luxury brands and FMCG products, sustainable packaging has become an indispensable part of attracting customers and maintaining brand reputation. The challenge for luxury brands is finding the balance between their aspirations to meet new sustainability demands as well as retain their vital brand image. We’re here to help them navigate this new course by providing functional, sustainable, and cost-effective alternatives that tick all the boxes in terms of packaging excellence.

Jason Roberts

Business Development Manager

From a sales perspective, I think that the differences between FMCG and luxury packaging illustrate the crucial importance of both brands and suppliers understanding customer needs and requirements.

FMCG consumers are typically driven by practical considerations, such as price and convenience. They’re known to be highly price-sensitive and time-pressed, meaning they are often looking for the quickest and least expensive solution; one that is feasible, functional and accessible. FMCG products also tend to be more of a commodity, so consumers are less likely to remain loyal to one particular brand. On the other hand, luxury items often have a strong brand following and are regarded as a status symbol, with customers more likely to be loyal to the same brand.

Luxury consumers are driven by a desire for status, quality, and exclusivity. They are more likely to be willing to pay a premium for a product that reflects their tastes and values. They are also more likely to be influenced by aesthetics, brand, and reputation when making their purchasing decisions. These consumers require packaging that profoundly reinforces the brand values and confirms the product is worth the price they’re paying for it.

Essentially, the differentiation exists where FMCG packaging typically focuses on the product and its features, while luxury packaging is often more focused on the brand and its story. FMCG packaging is designed to be functional and disposable, whilst luxury packaging is created to be more durable, aesthetically more appealing and potentially long-lasting.

To sum up the differences between the two, luxury consumers are typically looking for brands and packaging to deliver:

  • Quality and craftsmanship
  • Exclusivity and rarity
  • Status and prestige
  • Unique design and style
  • Personalisation and customisation
  • Experience and emotional connection
  • Continuation and enhancement of the brand story
  • Ethical and sustainable sourcing and production practices

FMCG consumers are seeking:

  • Convenience and ease of use
  • Protection and preservation of the product
  • Clear and accurate product information
  • Attractive and appealing design
  • Good value for the price
  • Environmentally friendly and sustainable options
  • Brand recognition and connection

In today’s world, both FMCG and luxury brands must take sustainability into account to remain competitive and relevant. Consumers want to know where their item is sourced from and whether it was done ethically and sustainably. Brands need to be mindful of this and ensure they are doing their best to employ principled and eco-friendly practices.

One of the biggest challenges for luxury brands and their suppliers, I think, though, is finding the balance between their aspirations to meet new sustainability demands with the need to retain their vital, often time-honoured, brand image. The positive news is that, with the right approach to the entire packaging life cycle, including the introduction of more sustainable and economical manufacturing and transport alternatives, it’s now possible to create luxury packaging solutions that exceed both consumer desires and brand sustainability objectives.


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