The mass of brands that once infiltrated the toiletries market is being replaced by the single brand with complete product range. Packaging manufacturers can take advantage of the diversity in pack formats being used reports Louise Hunt

Curtailed by slowing Western economic growth rates, the UK toiletries sector may still be showing moderate year-on-year growth but the explosion in brands seen over recent years appears to have reached saturation point.

It is not only market factors that have burst the brand boom. Consumers appear to no longer need the hard sell when it comes to toiletries. Says Chris Gower of Design Bridge: “We assume that toiletry products will work, everything else comes on top.”

Toiletries are no longer the single-minded ‘it does what it says on the box’ items. Even medicated products have taken on cosmetics references and the distinction between necessity and luxury is blurred.

Brand managers have had to apply some lateral thinking into delivering something new and many are turning to format diversification within one brand as the answer. It is also one that is economically appeasing.

“The toiletries market used to be very product focused and now it is being stretched much further to make the investment into brand building worthwhile,” says Chris Gower.

“A lot more thought has gone into the marketing. You won’t have a company with four or five individual brands. It is about the power of the single brand rather than spreading your effort and expenditure.

“Also, it is easier for a big brand to get stocked than a portfolio of smaller brands.”

Products such as Dove and Oil of Olay were early starters in this movement and have succeeded in extending into new product categories while retaining brand integrity. It is now the turn of the less obvious brands to spread their wings.

Last year Design Bridge completed a project with Brylcreem that transformed the red gel tub synonymous with an era of barbers and close shaves to appeal to an arguably more active male audience. It took three incarnations to gradually bring the product up to date without losing the original customer. At the same time, the move was about making the product accessible to new markets that wouldn’t have been seen dead with the old version.

To achieve this balance Brylcreem has gone from one product to a whole hair care range. The standard gel tub has been replaced by a tube that provides better shelf impact and volume perception. To keep a handle on the original brand identity, the tub format is still being used but as a compact wax container. There is also a wax stick similar to those seen in the deodorant sector.

Clearasil Total Control is the latest brand to undergo a category revamp from Design Bridge, only this time aimed at stretching the brand into formats that will also appeal to an older market that doesn’t want to feel like a teenager again.

Design Bridge tackled the project by taking the strong features of Clearasil – the trademark arc and blue shade – and put them into a new format. The launch range – in the shops last month – includes a tube, a roller ball, a foaming gel and two types of wipes. The packs and graphics were supplied by Field Boxmore, Amcor Flexibles, Labelsco, Arista Tubes and Walsall Print Group.

From a graphics perspective the different formats involved in brand extensions can present a challenge. “With Clearasil, printing was onto two types of plastics and a cardboard sleeve. We had to effectively take the lowest quality colour as the benchmark to avoid inconsistency,” says Chris. The print process involved lithography, flexography, dry offset and letterpress.

For packaging manufacturers format extensions can be perceived as a good or bad thing depending on how you respond to them. Traditional formats may die, or become significantly diminished, as with the Brylcream tub. On the other hand demand for readily available packaging alternatives can mean extra business for versatile manufacturers.

“When you’re dealing with such a range of packaging formats you can’t be tied to a particular pack or material. I would say that this cross-fertilisation from one market to another means that manufacturers that may have seen themselves as specialists in one area may find that there is an opportunity in the toiletries sector,” says Chris.

Innovation is in borrowing across sectors rather than developing completely new packs. The toiletries counter has become a stage for an assortment of pack types. Pouch packs taken from the food sector stand alongside tubes, tins, tubs, tottles, sticks and the now ubiquitous wipe pack – each adding interest to a brand that might otherwise be stuck in a rut.

The skincare market is one of the toiletry sector’s current success stories with UK sales having risen 15% last year [The Grocer]. Chris Gower directly attributes this success to the growth in brand category extensions.

RPC Bramlage is a company working on solutions for new pack formats in the toiletries market. A recent project for Yves Rocher involved the development of a new skincare concept with inspiration taken from the highly evolved deodorant sector.

Yves Rocher designed skincare sticks based on the deo stick pack to provide a convenient way of applying skin products. Two versions are available – Prevention Soleil and Patch System.

The 75ml screw-up stick is injection moulded in PP and front and back labelled by RPC Bramlage. The cap is colour-coded for the respective products and features a frost effect surface finish, embossed with the Yves Rocher logo. A tamper evident film seal completes the pack.

Cebal – part of the Pechiney Group – is focusing its efforts on expanding the parameters of where tubes fit within the cosmetics and toiletries market by developing some technically advanced alternatives to bottles.

Gary Bird, Cebal commercial direc-tor tubes UK and Ireland, lists some of the most recent innovations.

The Airbackless Tube – introduced September 2002 – is fitted with an airless valve that does not allow air to re-enter the tube when squeezed.

It is designed to overcome the problem of contamination in oxygen-sensitive products and reduce the need for preservatives. The patented tube is believed to be the first to offer the airless solution without the use of a pump.

Cebal has also recently developed the Dual Tube – a tube within a tube that was primarily designed as a solution to separate reactive ingredients until application but also offers many aesthetic possibilities.

The squeezable laminate outer tube can be produced in aluminium foil web, or it can be made with an all-plastics laminate web. In this case the outer tube could be transparent to reveal the product and internal tube.

Cebal has also made oval tubes more accessible with Tandem. Oval tubes have tended to be more expensive as they have been produced on existing tube lines that require an extra process to make them oval.

Cebal has overcome this problem with a custom-built line. The 50ml oval tubes, with an increased surface area for branding, are available with mono and bi-colour oval service caps.

Further developments include 56mm diameter tubes, that can go up to 300ml to address growing demand for larger packs.

While many toiletry pack developments have been in plastics, metal packaging is providing ‘attitude’ to brand extensions. Roberts Metal Packaging is receiving healthy demand from brand managers seeking a means of differentiating toiletry products with perceived added value.

A recent project was for Andrew Collinge Re-Workable Fibre Gum hair care product. Brand owner Alberto-Culver chose a deep 76mm diameter aluminium container for the primary pack.

Metal screw caps used with glass or plastics bottles are also a growing market for Roberts Metal Packaging, which recently supplied gold anodised aluminum screw caps for the L’Occitane shampoo range.

Continuing with the trend in borrowing, some exciting developments in metal within the toiletries sector are coming from innovations in the beverage can industry.

Containers with unusual surface finishes and textures are beginning to impact on aerosols, says Tony Woods of the Metal Packaging Manufacturer’s Association. US Can has developed a ‘Soft Touch’ finish in prototype and Crown Cork & Seal has created a silver sparkle finish for Lever Fabergé’s Sure antiperspirant range and is also working on tactile finishes.

Perhaps the greatest impact on toiletry shelves will come from shaped metal. US Can was first to market in Europe and the US with a shaped aerosol. The company is now supplying Tesco with shaped aerosols for shaving gel. Crown Cork & Seal will have shaped aerosols in the market this year.