Embossing packages: stamp of approval

28 June 2018

Enhancing packaging through creative applications has long been an appealing way to add value without great cost. Emma-Jane Batey speaks to brand-owners and packaging experts to appreciate how embossing suits brands and consumers by adding a lot for a little.

Embossing looks good and feels good. Embossing helps products stand out on the shelf and gives a sense of opulence and dynamism beyond the colour and weight of the packaging. So it’s no surprise that brands love embossing, particularly when they are keen to find ways to differentiate without a huge impact on the bottom line.

Independent packaging consultant Sarah Greenwood, of Sarah Greenwood Packaging, says the advantages of embossing make it a strong contender. “Used extensively in premium spirits and perfumes, embossing on cartons conveys luxury and opulence,” she says. “It is often combined with foil blocking in the product name and the design itself, making the product stand out on the shelf to the casual shopper and [giving] the purchaser confidence that they have spent their money wisely. A more subtle result can be achieved by combining embossing with a spot gloss.”

Greenwood notes that the added value delivered by the embossing is a smart way to ensure the consumer feels positive about the product. “It shows that the brand-owner has thought about the packaging, cares about pleasing us – the consumer – and hasn’t just dropped their print onto an ‘off-the-shelf’ option from the tin supplier,” she says.

“An example of this is from Lush, the natural cosmetics retailer, which sells a small, round, unprinted tin for customers to store their solid shampoo bars. It’s turned into a desirable object by having the retailer’s striking embossed into the lid.”

Creating a tactile surface is also a huge benefit of embossing. Lindt, the chocolate brand, has taken advantage of this across its range, particularly with its 100g Excellence bars. Greenwood illustrates this by explaining how a square of chocolate is reproduced visually and texturally on the wrapper in the exact place you put your thumb when picking it up.

“It’s an ingenious way to say ‘feel what’s inside’,” she says. “A more down-to-earth use of embossing is to add Braille text to cartons to pharmaceutical products. But it isn’t just restricted to medicines. The Co-op uses Braille on many of its own-brand food and grocery items – a simple addition that makes the product more inclusive for the blind and partially sighted.”

Treat yourself

As a recognised way to add a touch of luxury to packaging, embossing is particularly well suited to products aimed at gifting and ‘treat yourself’ self-gifting, with the packaging delivering the sense of occasion before the product itself is even opened.

For Jersey-based natural bath and body brand Seascape Island Apothecary, embossing has proved to be well suited to its ‘affordable luxury’ promise.

Seascape’s managing director Stuart Mactavish says, “I’m proud to say that Seascape ticks all the boxes for luxurious gifting or personal use for the whole family, with the products all achieving different USPs in quality, performance and presentation. I believe there is no competitive brand; it’s luxurious for the whole family, with our essential oils safe for babies and pregnant women, it’s family oriented, giftable, stands out on the shelf and is not copying other high-end branding.

“But Seascape products haven’t been dumbed down for kids; our Les Petits range is just as subtly beautiful as our adult products – no bright colours or cartoons. It’s stylish, delicate and appealing.”

Embossing plays an important role in the Seascape branding, with its memorable seahorse logo present across the range. “The seahorse is indigenous to the waters off the UK coast and, as a proudly and concertedly British brand, this is important to us. The quality of our product is delicate, visually appealing, calm and majestic, like a seahorse,” says Mactavish.

“It makes it all come together. This is why we use the embossing of the seahorse on our packaging. Our boxes, like everything else we use throughout our brand, are 100% British, and offer that all-important first impression. We go the extra mile – the heavy card suits the embossing, which is on the front and the top. It’s not over-hyped style over substance. It’s taking the customer to the next stage of the Seascape experience.”

Mactavish says Seascape’s secondary branding of a flower motif means that its embossing can be used on small items, such as its best-selling Sleep Oil, which comes in a roller-ball applicator. “The accent branding of the flower motif means that we can add embossing on smaller boxed products too, in products where the seahorse logo would be too big,” he says. “It adds a richness and exclusivity that encourages the giftability of the product, as well as the sense of luxury for self-gifting.”

Taste of style

The market for artisan chocolates is increasingly growing in the gifting and the ‘why not treat myself’ categories, with packaging a key differentiator in this sector. While loyal customers return to their favourites, the floating voter makes a choice based largely on shelf appeal, so chocolate brands are wise to add value where it counts.

The family-owned Beech’s Fine Chocolates has taken this to heart. Its quirky champagne truffle hat boxes feature Beech’s branding embossed alongside stylised Union flags and its postbox-friendly 100g boxes show the key message, ‘All you need is love and chocolate’, embossed in gold on pastel card.

“As a long-established chocolate brand, we’re still passionate about reinvention and delivering exactly what customers want. We’ve recently undergone a rebranding that includes us updating our packaging to reflect the delicious new flavours of truffle including Prosecco and pink champagne,” says Beech’s managing director Peter Whiting. “Our eye-catching oval boxes are so luxurious, with gold blocking inside and outside, and a lovely red interior. It’s a beautiful product. There’s debossing on the top, too. It’s a super-premium product; the packaging really reflects the quality of the chocolate inside. Embossing helps to deliver that whole experience.”

Leading foil blocking and embossing specialist Blockfoil has been dedicated to hot foil at its three factories in Ipswich, Manchester and Nottingham since 1981. Using its unrivalled knowledge of the three core factors involved in embossing – pressure, heat and die depth – Blockfoil offers a comprehensive range of hot foiling equipment in the UK.

The company’s marketing manager, Matthew Ash, explains he is noticing a number of new trends in the embossing world. “The current trends in embossing include the use of fluted foiling dies to create stunning foiled and embossed images in one pass, thus saving considerable time on make-ready. We also employ a specialist hand-engraver in order to meet the increase in demand for intricate embossing dies, which is mainly used for greetings cards and fine finishing,” he says.

“Multilevel embossing also creates a stunning effect, making simple images appear more complicated than they actually are. So alongside single-level embossed dies, single-level debossed dies or multilevel textured dies, we can provide customers with whatever decorative finishes they require.”

With embossing offering an opportunity to make packaging more beautiful without major additional costs, it makes commercial and aesthetic sense to put a stamp on it.

Box work from foil blocking and embossing specialist Blockfoil.

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