In an excerpt from Formes de Luxe’s upcoming Winter issue, we spoke with packaging industry veteran and former CEO at Albéa, François Luscan. He reflects on his career, where the beauty packaging market is headed and the importance of collaboration for the industry when it comes to sustainability.
What changes have you observed in terms of the use of materials during your career?
FL: In more than 30 years, the packaging sector has undergone profound changes in response to market pressures. A real acceleration took place in the mid-1980s. At that time, in the food industry, yogurt was packaged in paper, and then we switched to aluminum/paper laminates. The idea was to stop using paper, so we did everything possible to switch to plastic! The same thing happened when I debuted in the tube packaging segment: aluminum had to give way to plastic. But let’s be clear: paper, aluminum, tin, glass or plastic, there is no ideal material. The central question remains, what is the utilitarian purpose of the pack?
Today, plastic is in the hot seat.
FL: Yes, but I’m convinced that it has an extraordinary future. The current recycling rate is not sufficient, but there are solutions on a pilot scale when it comes to mechanical and chemical recycling that make me optimistic. We need to be wary of fads, and turn to science, data and facts, as that’s how things will evolve.
At one point in my career, when I was working at a leading aerosol company, the entire industry was forecasting the end of aerosol as it was accused of contributing to ozone depletion. Instead, we worked on pack size, shape, and came up with new propellants and changed what was a challenge into opportunities. After that, the segment developed well.
Do you advocate a reduction in packaging?
FL: We’ve reached a turning point. We need to optimize the weight of our packaging, develop deposit systems when possible, or refill solutions. Bulk is in fashion, so why not implement it for solid products, whose properties are not likely to be altered? Let’s not forget that packaging has an extremely important utilitarian function. When these solutions are not suited, it’s best to keep the classic packaging, but making them lighter-weight and systematically recyclable (which of course entails collecting and transforming). And then, little by little, the consumer has to start accepting the idea that a pack can have slight defects, notably aesthetic, that are due to its being recycled. And that this does not affect the formula itself.
These developments – and their cost – represent a significant burden for the manufacturer, compared to 10 years ago.
FL: This is indeed a major change. In the past, suppliers’ innovations were aimed at product usage and practicality. Today, they have to take into account eco-design in all its facets. This is expensive and the financial repercussions aren’t always shared by the customers. All of the players in the sector are facing these challenges, but I believe they can meet them working together.
For the full interview, read the Winter 2022 issue of Formes de Luxe. Subscribe here.