Jason Roberts unwraps the luxury packaging market

Jason Roberts is a man who knows a great deal about the importance of luxury product branding and packaging. He’s also Business Development Manager for IPL Packaging – UK.  Here we discuss some of packaging’s key issues with him:

Q: What questions do you recommend brands ask of a potential packaging supplier?

Do you use the same manufacturer for each new project?

This question isn’t asked as often as it should be. No factory I know of is able to produce quality items in each and every medium associated with luxury packaging, so it’s therefore essential to know what or whom you’re really dealing with.
One of a packaging supplier’s primary concerns should be determining the manufacturer best equipped for a specific project, this means establishing relationships with audited factories that each offer distinct capabilities as well as obtaining quotes from several of them when determining the best fit for a client.

Do your own people monitor the manufacturing process?

You’d be amazed at how many companies and agents sell packaging products without ever seeing these being made; without ensuring that the quality required for the end result is exactly on point.
You don’t want to be doing QC when you open the delivered boxes for the first time! Teams on the ground at our factories check every aspect of the production to ensure quality adherence to delivery deadlines.

Do you engage in pack testing to ensure quality control?

I believe in 3 guiding principles: exceptional quality, service excellence and an achievable budget. In terms of quality, however, it’s of great benefit if your supplier has their own testing laboratory in order to conduct numerous different tests that can the packaging stands up to the rigours of friction, impact, extremes of temperature, transport, etc. Its also advisable that they work with SGS to independently verify and guarantee the results of these tests.

How quickly can you adapt to changes in requirements?

Whether it’s a question of changing materials or design, increasing or decreasing volumes or altering a shipping destination or delivery timeline, it’s ultimately good people that really make the difference!
It’s good practice to assign a dedicated project manager to each client. These individuals need to be tuned-in to the client’s needs and able to react swiftly and decisively to any request. This enables effective communication and the straightforward execution of each project.

Are you ethically and socially compliant in your manufacturing?

This is a crucial element of a luxury or high-profile brand’s visibility to customers. Any reputable packaging supplier needs to ensure that its manufacturers meet stringent social accountability criteria and are certified by recognised bodies such as Sedex, REACH, FCS, Ecovadis and SAI, to name a few.

Q: What key trends will shape the luxury packaging market over the next 5 years?

Ecommerce will increasingly dominate the market space for packaging of all types, including luxury brands. We’re already seeing the development of this with our existing clients.
The ability to buy something online; have the package delivered within 24 hours and then have the ability to return it free-of-charge if it’s unsuitable, is understandably appealing in this time-constrained era, For the customer, it becomes a risk-free transaction and therefore easy to commit to.

The challenge for the packaging sector is in finding ways to sustain and enhance the luxury buying experience for the client in the ecommerce sphere and exploring ways retain the ‘luxury experience’. Technology will definitely play its part in this and we’re devoting significant resources to getting ahead of the curve without devising solutions that are too ‘gimmicky’ or distracting.

A second trend we’re following at IPL Packaging is the push for 100% environmentally friendly packaging; either through sustainability efforts, recycling or a combination of the two. Whilst this may not be the ultimate determining factor for a luxury brand purchase just yet, brands are becoming more and more aware of this as it speaks to their desire to offset their carbon footprint. Even for presentation boxes that encourage secondary use, there’s a push towards the use of ‘natural’ materials.

Q: What are some of your favourite packs with the IPL Packaging portfolio?

Quite honestly, there are just too many to mention. We’re currently working with so many mediums from rigid board, to softcard, wood, metal – and many others in between. Our packaging solutions are entirely varied and specific to each brand or product.

For example, when it comes to special whiskies and the finest of fine spirits, tradition and heritage matter. For the 1973 Vintage from Bowmore whisky, IPL constructed a customised MDF box with cedar wood veneer, a bespoke metal latch (replicating the Bowmore warehouse door handle) and recessed metal hinges. The quality and design of the box helps to successfully communicate the brand credentials, recognise the distiller’s craft and represent the provenance of the product of the product within.

Another two of my ‘favourites’ would include the Sterling Iridium wine packs especially custom designed and manufactured by IPL to commemorate the 2017 Emmy Awards winners. Each magnificent bottle of wine was encased in a specially engraved and personalised gift case constructed using a custom-made clear acrylic tube complete with machined stainless steel fitments.  
This as well as the premium crystal acrylic boxes we designed and created for USA-based bespoke online floral arrangement and delivery service Via Florelle.

Q: Would you recommend potential clients attend packaging trade shows, where your competitors are present? 

Yes, always!
Packaging suppliers should never attempt to shield clients from potential conceptual ideas, marketplace innovations and new trends. These suppliers should be confident that their clients choose to work with them because of their levels of service, reliability, competitive prices and excellence in design, manufacturing and quality control.
It’s always good to explore opportunities for face-to-face engagement with established clients, to meet new people and showcase our capabilities. Packaging shows are an ideal environment in which to do so.

Q: What do you view as the biggest growth areas for the luxury packaging market and for IPL Packaging itself?

I’ve mentioned the explosion of the ecommerce industry and believe that will be one of the biggest area of growth. On the other end of the spectrum, however, I think the retail experience for very high-end products will continue to become more specialised and the associated packaging will become more luxurious as well, as brands seek to differentiate themselves in every way possible.
My own personal prediction involves the evolution of the humble shoebox – the current design is still stuck in the 60’s. There is so much fun and creativity to be had in this category.
At IPL, we are determined to be at the forefront of new concepts; new engineering elements and the use of new and innovative materials, such that just a small increase in the price and presentation of a box can dramatically increase a customer’s perception of the quality of the product and the brand as a whole.

Q: Luxury packaging continues to be thriving, fast developing global sector that’s become increasing competitive as more suppliers enter the market.  How will IPL maintain a leading position in the industry?

I believe IPL has some of the best packaging designers and engineering innovators in the industry. Each time they deliver concepts on a new project, I’m impressed by their creative approach and ability to seamlessly envision and execute the client brief.
Of course, this means nothing without us also achieving our key deliverables regarding budget, timelines, quality, logistics, etc but it’s often the perfect start to us forging successful, long-standing relationship with our clients; some of whom have been with us ever since IPL was founded, over 20 years ago.