The Secret Sauce in Lots of Your Favorite Products? The Packaging

When you find an almost-too-good-to-be-true product, it’s not just the formula that’s killer. The packaging plays an equally crucial role in making your products work (or, in some cases, not work).

At Living Proof, we develop everything—from the formula to the packaging—in house. Here’s the download from Barbara Spakowski, our vice president of packaging, on why it’s both the bottle and the stuff inside that matters.

On misconceptions
Most people don’t think about packaging. They don’t think about how it got there or why it works. It just never occurs to them—unless something goes wrong.

Two of our biggest concerns are package compatibility and package functionality. Can the materials chosen for the packaging components stand up the product formulation maintaining product integrity and freshness? Does the method of dispensing the product from the package (lotion pump, flip top cap, aerosol valve) allow the product to be evacuated consistently from the first use to the last use. That’s why we do so much testing. Is the customer delighted every time she uses the pack?

On her early challenges
Now, there are a lot of women in the packaging industry but when I started there were hardly any. I definitely had a lot of challenges in the early days. A lot of people didn’t take me seriously. That’s why I have the strong personality that I have today, and why people say I’m tough. Some of the biggest challenges were trying to work internationally. A huge amount of packaging is developed in Japan, Korea, and China. In the early days when I would go to Japan for meetings, I’d be the only woman in the room except for the two women serving the coffee and tea. I learned how to make myself credible, speak intelligently, and earn their respect. I always wanted to be as prepared as possible before I walked into any meeting.

On Living Proof’s approach
No Frizz is meant to be reminiscent of a test tube—it’s a subtle and sophisticated nod to science. Full is a line for people who want bigger, fuller hair, so we created bottles that were round, full, and had a wide presence. Restore is meant to invoke health—it’s inspired by the shape of a milk bottle. Perfect hair Day packaging gives a nod toward Erlenmeyer flasks.

On inspiration
I find inspiration in the automotive industry, fashion, design, architecture, and pharmaceuticals. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

On sustainability
I think the world has reached the stage where we absolutely have to have sustainability high on our list of priorities. We have to use that word as a filter anytime we think about creating a new package. We owe it to our world, our environment, and our kids to be conscious of this.

On her person
Ron McLaughlin, our head of product development, is an amazing great partner. When you’re in the world of packaging you live to have a partner like I do. Why? Because even though he’s very creative and forward thinking, he’s also very practical and organized. He’s an engineer. He’s not coming up with something weird that won’t work and blaming the packaging.

On irksome packaging
Any kind of snack or cereal product should come with a re-closable zip. Why don’t they do that? It adds cost, but when I open my cornflakes why do I still have to first tear it open and then manually roll the inner bag down to keep it fresh?