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How does sustainability challenge luxury packaging?

How does sustainability challenge luxury packaging?
Consumers are becoming more environmentally aware and are seeking out more sustainable lifestyle choices, as discussed in our recent consumer packaging trends bulletin. Packaging manufacturers are responding by ensuring their materials and processes are as eco-friendly as possible.

But how about the luxury packaging market? There is increasing public and industry pressure on luxury brand owners to reduce the environmental impact of packaging. These implications have meant many luxury packaging companies have obtained Sustainable Packaging Coalition status, and use more environmentally friendly materials such as paperboard, rather than plastics. 

However, is there such a thing as responsible luxury, or does that defeat the point of products designed to be extravagant and superior? As part of our new bulletin series, Smithers Pira explores the potential obstacles involved with sustainability for the luxury packaging industry, and how these are being overcome. 

Why does the idea of "responsible luxury" pose a problem?

Prestige brands and their customers are often more concerned about the look rather than the eco-friendliness of packaging. Customers' expectations for luxury packaging are much different from the general market, with packaging seen as an important part of the product itself. From cosmetics to confectionary, the entire basis of these products is centred on multi-material packaging which contributes to the overall feeling of 'luxury'. Therefore, much of this type of packaging includes metallised plastic, metallised glass and many other types of materials; which, while connoting quality and expense, are very difficult to recycle.

The task of producing environmentally friendly packaging that is also luxurious is therefore a challenging one. Responsible packaging means a whole host of new issues for the luxury packaging market, such as practicality, cost, material choice, aesthetics and maintaining brand image. Due to any one of these reasons, it has often been the case in the past that sustainable packaging solutions have been dropped halfway through the process.