Sephora is an international cosmetics retailer that, in addition to selling products provided by an array of makeup and personal care manufacturers, also produces private-label items. Many of Sephora's exclusive product lines are "partnership brands," produced in conjunction with an existing company looking to expand the reach of a particular brand (whether it be a fashion designer, jeweler, television star, cartoon character or other known name). Such lines are challenging for packaging partners, who have to meet the exacting standards held by both the cosmetics company and the brand owner.
HCT Packaging, a multinational packaging company specializing in premium beauty and personal care products, previously had worked with Sephora France on a number of its brands, including the PANTONE line. On this, HCT Packaging helped the retailer incorporate the spirit and aesthetics of the color-matching authority (a subsidiary of X-Rite Inc.) in a line of eyeshadows, lip glosses, blushes and combination cosmetic kits. Because Sephora has been pleased with the execution and enjoyed favorable sales from the partnership-brand work HCT Packaging has created, Sephora since has turned to the packaging firm to execute about a dozen other lines, featuring makeup, fragrances, accessories and other items.
"There's a great deal of competition in this field, but we have a reputation in the beauty packaging industry for delivering on these kinds of projects," says Nick Gardner, vp of sales for HCT Packaging. "We have the ability to work in a wide range of materials. Whereas other companies produce tins, or injection molding, or cardboard packaging, we can deliver any or all of it."
One of the most recent partnership brands HCT Packaging has produced for Sephora is Hello Kitty, a much-beloved character owned by Japan-based Sanrio. When Sanrio decided to join forces with the cosmetic retailer in generating high-end cosmetics that imparted the character's likeness in a line featuring packages melding a fun look with a premium feel, they needed a packaging partner capable of filling such a tall order.
After Sephora inked a licensing agreement with Sanrio, it worked with HCT Packaging to produce a multifaceted line of cosmetic and fragrance products, and the associated containers and secondary packaging. Some of the items (such as the glass body of the Hello Kitty Big Pink Bow cologne bottle) HCT Packaging outsources to partner vendors. Other components, such as the plastic trays of various makeup palettes, the company manufactures itself at production facilities around the globe.
Gardner says the packaging that the company has produced for Sephora's Hello Kitty line has been wildly successful.
"The one that I'm particularly pleased with is the Graffiti Hello Kitty makeup palette," he says. "It's a most compelling piece of packaging."
Creation of the packaging required a great deal of communication among the three companies, according to Gardner. Sephora has high quality standards and wanted to ensure its Hello Kitty products appealed to fun-loving yet sophisticated customers. The line, while whimsical, is intended to appeal to adult clients.
"Their goal was to take a fun, younger element and turn it into something with a broader appeal," Gardner says. "While Hello Kitty often is associated with younger children, the aim here was slightly more mature, to create a woman's product. It's actually very high-quality makeup."
Designed to meet partners' needs
Further, Sanrio is very protective of its longstanding Hello Kitty brand. After initial discussions and meetings, HCT Packaging created prototypes, shared them with the various parties, and after back-and-forth came up with a premium-look package that met with everyone's satisfaction.
The final Graffiti Hello Kitty palette resembles the iconic rounded feline face of the Hello Kitty character. It consists of a bottom tray with two blush colors, an inner tray with four eyeshadow shades, and a lid, which clasps the three sections together. The outer surfaces are festooned with a vibrantly colored graffiti motif. All of these parts are an injection-molded ABS/SAN styrenic polymer composite, and the palette's components are molded and assembled at the company's HCT Kent division facilities in Dongguan, China. The vacuum metallization process used on Hello Kitty's bow is performed in house. Water-transfer printing, a technology that uses water-soluble film to apply bright, 3D images to the outside of the cases, is outsourced to another packaging partner.
"One reason why it's so successful is the intensity of the graphics," Gardner says. "The four-color water-transfer process lends itself very well to bringing out the high color intensity you'd see in actual graffiti."
The paperboard carton, with a graffiti style that complements the palette, is imaged via a four-color process by Taiwan-based carton production firm Homer Color Printing. The finished palettes are shipped to the states, where they are filled by New Jersey-based NuWorld Cosmetics.
In addition to the retail products HCT Packaging has executed in Sephora's Hello Kitty line, the company also has produced specialty and limited-edition containers and secondary packaging. When the brand launched, HCT made a limited number of brush sets each adorned with 12,000 Swarovski crystals that were given out to trade editors as a promotion.
Next up for HCT Packaging's partnership with Sephora: a hipster-themed makeup palette called Nerdy Kitty. This package riffs on the classic Hello Kitty image with a houndstooth pattern and glasses with tape on the bridge. That packaging and product will launch later this year.