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The pandemic eliminated many everyday occurrences that required paper, causing the already struggling paper industry to experience drastic changes. 2015 saw global demand for graphic paper decline for the first time. The steep decline in demand for paper products in North America and Europe over the past five years is falling even further than experts predicted. 

Many tasks that traditionally depended on paper went digital. Paperless living means no mailed bank statements, no receipts, and event planners, to name a few. 

Even shifts in wedding procedures caused the paper industry to slow down. Wedding invitations are not only going digital but were being eliminated in full due to thousands of wedding cancellations due to restrictions in 2020 and 2021. The average cost of a wedding in a pandemic society is $19,000, according to a recent study by The Knot. This is a $9,000 drop from the average cost in 2019, around $28,000.

However, due to sustainability concerns and TikTok catalyzing more indie makeup brands, paper makeup packaging could be the market’s savior. 

The New Cosmetics Industry

The cosmetics industry has experienced many shifts throughout the past few decades. The rise of beauty bloggers in the early aughts was a mere preview of how saturated the market would eventually become with influencers shilling products. TikTok took this concept and sprinted with it. According to a study by TikTok, 52% of users now say they discover new products on the app. Additionally, 61% of TikTok users feel that advertising on TikTok is unique from top social and video platforms. 

Now more than ever, the masses are interested in cosmetics thanks to the virality of “life-changing” products on the market. With such an increase in demand, manufacturers have worked tirelessly to meet consumers’ needs. However, such an influx in new products creates heavy saturation in the market, so brands have to find new ways to stand out in each campaign. This is where the importance of packaging plays a crucial role. 

With so much content churned out daily on TikTok and other popular platforms like Instagram, users’ attention spans are becoming shorter. First impressions are everything and more nowadays. Doug Dorah, VP of Sales and Marketing at packaging company Oliver Inc. notes, “Luxe brands need to be cognizant of how their products appear on shelf—and elevate the user’s unboxing experience to ensure it matches the quality of the product,” Dorah continues, “Whether it’s a luxury fragrance, skincare serum, or just a bar of soap—the carton or paper tube surrounding it sends a message to the consumer about the brand. And secondary packaging becomes even more important for brands sold online.”

Packaging is Crucial in Today’s Cosmetic Climate

According to Statista, the global paper and paperboard packaging market size was estimated at $199.8 billion in 2021 and is forecasted to increase to more than $250 billion by 2026. Much of this growth is expected to come from the eCommerce industry’s growing demand for corrugated boxes.

Suppliers in the beauty industry are noticing a spike in demand. Mitchell Kaneff, CEO of sustainable packaging company Arkay, says, “More beauty brands are increasingly looking for paperboard packaging—and we source sustainable raw materials whenever possible in an ongoing effort to address eco-conscious concerns.”

The minimalism trend affecting  branding everywhere is also essential in the shift in packaging needs. Benjamin Cohen, creative and innovation director of Knoll Printing & Packaging, observes, “Beauty brands are moving away from using glitter and lots of stamping on cartons—and this is inspiring us to find other more innovative ways to attract attention.” 

Widespread innovation and an increased focus on sustainability are helping the paper industry. More beauty brands are moving away from using foils that are harmful to the environment. Flashy packaging like Pat Mcgrath’s iconic style is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Today, less is more.

Will Innovation Hurt or Help?

According to research from McKinsey, wood is a biomaterial with exciting properties, from the log on down to fibers, micro-and nanofibers, and sugar molecules. A lowkey niche industry making bio-products has existed alongside large-volume pulp, paper, and board products for many years. We are in the midst of a boom in research activity to develop new bio-products, like applications for nanofibers to composite materials and lignin-based carbon fiber. The company also reports that unique processes are being designed to extract hemicellulose as feedstock for sugars and chemical production while still keeping the cellulose parts of the wood chip for pulp products, which is insurmountably better for the environment. 

Additionally, molded pulp is a new(ish) eco-friendly material that can be an alternative to paperboard. It’s a mixture of bamboo, sugarcane, and wood fibers, and the process is easily adjustable. 

But, companies are still choosing paper for makeup palettes, lipstick tubes, and more. Packaging innovator Balance Inc. is a supplier offering a sustainable twist. The company’s Friction-Fit Palettes feature a removable paper tray—consumers can extract the pans so that the base can be reused or recycled. The company’s paper components are made using FSC-certified materials and contain 40% post-consumer waste.

It seems that simple paper packaging is very in demand with sustainability concerns and minimalism preferences. At a time when the paper industry is coming off of a period of struggle due to the pandemic’s effect on paper product demand, makeup packaging is making up for losses. The staggering rise in cosmetic interest comes at a perfect time for the paper and pulp industry, and the numbers will most likely continue to rise.

Photo by Jess @ Harper Sundayon Unsplash