In an exclusive interview with Luxe Packaging Insight, Nicolas Alloin, president of Faiveley Plast, explains the growth strategy developed for the group’s subsidiary VPI, a fast-evolving player in the field of luxury caps.
Would it be fair to say that VPI is now playing in the big leagues, in light of its spraycaps for Girl by Rochas and Paco Rabanne’s Phantom?
Indeed, the company is experiencing a new lease of life. VPI had already caught the eye of luxury brands with our premium model for stick deodorants, but this mostly concerned niche markets and small-scale launches. The projects that you mention, and others in the works, have widened the scope of investments, supply chain, and in-house skills. VPI receives support from Faiveley Plast, a company with eight factories located around the world. In 2020, the family-owned company reached a turnover of €80m across three sectors: industrial equipment, beauty, and health.
How is VPI currently structured?
The company reported turnover of €12m in 2020, of which 30% came from the deodorant stick business and the remainder from caps for fragrance, makeup, and skincare. A small portion of the business is in spirits, a sector for which we offer the rare capacity to glue cork onto plastic stoppers. We intend to develop the wine and spirits market given its potential; it represents the second largest export volume in France's GDP.
What is VPI's production capacity?
Our factory is located in France's Jura region and is equipped with more than 40 production lines dedicated to injection and assembly and around 30 robots, and retains a tradition of hot stamping, pad printing, and screenprinting. For the last two years, we have also offered the possibility to glue decorative plastic pieces, designed in-house, onto glass bottles. A recent project featured a flower necklace for a Jean-Paul Gaultier fragrance. One of our workshops is also equipped with electrostatic discharge flooring, which allows us to assemble electronic components without risk of damaging them. This is key, as we are now being asked to integrate this kind of functionality into packaging.
Can you tell us more about VPI’s new directions?
We want to assist our clients as they undertake both their “green” and digital transitions. The product that most represents this process is Phantom by Paco Rabanne, as it integrates both the green and digital dimensions. Because the bottle is refillable, we developed the first removeable spraycap to go with it. We also integrated an NFC chip into the connected 100 and 150ml formats in order to communicate with the consumer.
What are your investment plans?
By 2025 at the latest, we plan to build a new factory on the VPI site with innovative construction based on low-energy building techniques and use of local materials, such as wood from the Jura region. Our objective is to support a tripling of VPI's turnover to reach around €30m, or one third of the Faiveley Plast group’s total turnover. As a precaution, the Faiveley family has always adhered to a strategy of diversification. The group's activity leans more towards industry than the beauty and health sectors, so it’s important that we strike a balance between these different markets.
What about the digital transition?
We’ve been developing our own prototypes for the last three or four years. The difficulty lay in determining how to insert electronic chips into a small plastic piece and still be able to communicate, despite surface treatments, such as metallization and galvanization, which require a layer of metal that inhibits signal transmission. By working with electronic components manufacturer STMicroelectronics, we developed antennae that are strong enough to overcome the challenge and can therefore allow for communication with the consumer, product authentication, and supply chain management. Most of the demand for these components comes from the alcohol and spirits sector as because the products are quite expensive, the additional cost of electronics is more acceptable. Currently, the cost of integrating a communication function into our pieces is about 30 centimes per unit, after accounting for purchasing, assembly, and amortization of assembly facilities.
What can you tell us about your environmental strategy?
Today, 85% of our product development uses recycled or bio-sourced materials, meaning those created from organic elements instead of fossil fuels. VPI has a partnership with Sulapac, and is the only FSC-certified plastics processor, which means that our plant-based materials come from sustainably managed forests. However, the trend now is toward recycled rather than bio-sourced materials, since brands prefer the idea of turning excess waste into objects.
We’re also developing a standard rechargeable deodorant stick. We’ve developed a bespoke model for the startup 900 Care and are working on other packs in injected plastic. We also just received Gold certification from Ecovadis.
How has the pandemic impacted VPI?
Our revenue fell by 2% in 2020. We were able to maintain a certain level of production because brands continued to manufacture, although product launches were delayed. We are expecting 20% growth in fiscal 2021, driven predominantly by new products, which currently represent half of our turnover. The pandemic also hastened the demise of under-performing products and gave consumers a desire to discover new ones.