As the standard of luxury packaging grows ever higher, brands increasingly use foils to give consumers a multi-sensory experience. Across every consumer goods market, inks, laminates, foils and coatings – aided by new print techniques – impart texture and intrigue to packs, meeting the trend for sophisticated, “haptic” packaging (that is, packaging that provides a sense of touch).

For the customer, the first point of contact with any product is almost always the packaging. Use of labeling is therefore pivotal to how a product is perceived. Now, continuing advances in foil packaging provide brands with dazzling new labeling solutions that attract new customers and reassure existing ones of their quality.

A history of luxury

Hot foil stamping – the practice of transferring pre-dried foils to surfaces at high temperature – has been adding depth and character to products since the 19th century, when it was mainly used for leather and paper book covers. As time passed, hot foils were applied to other surfaces too, such as plastics and packaging. This evolution led to the development of cold foiling, a cost-effective alternative technique specifically for in-line processes.

Today’s packaging designers enjoy freedom and possibilities that their predecessors could only dream about. Technological advances, including the development of foils that allow materials to be placed more accurately, quickly and efficiently than ever before, have placed an array of metallic colors and screen effects at their fingertips, including multi-colors and half tones that add true depth and sophistication to labels.

When and why to use foils

Decorative foil effectively embellishes product packages that require strong shelf-appeal, such as luxury gifts, wine labels, cosmetics and personal care goods. For these products, foils can be the difference between fading into a crowd of thousands on retail shelves and truly demanding customers’ attention.

Some brands can be discouraged by the extra cost involved in foil packaging – but if it’s done well, the money is more than regained through sales. The Foil and Specialty Effects Association (FSEA) study, An Initial Study into the Impact of High-Visibility Enhancements on Shelf Presence, finds that there are clear advantages to foil stamping “in terms of attracting attention faster and retaining attention on packaging longer than identical packages without foil stamping.” It concludes that “foil stamping increases sales.”

For many brands, the best solution for applying metallic finishes to labels or packaging is now cold foiling. The standard printing methods of cold foiling make it a quick and cost-effective alternative to traditional hot foiling. The latest cold foils offer exceptionally fine detail down to 3-point font size; they can cover large solid areas; and they lend high-quality gloss effects to text and graphics. Designed to be over-printable, they offer packaging designers and printers unlimited combinations of metallic colors and effects, including multi-colors and half tones.

Separately, foils also help to add greater impact to packaging and labels produced on narrow web label presses and digital print bar systems. By combining flexographic and digital print with foils, designers can deliver innovative new visual screen and tactile effects, and add premium high-end finishes to packaging labels across an array of market categories.

By assembling “trend boards” – scrapbooks inspired by art and design exhibitions, trade shows, popular culture, travel and developments in technology – the best foil manufacturers stay abreast of cutting-edge trends to maximize customer interaction. The exquisite Bois 1920 fragrance box, for example, uses the extreme matte gold finish of API’s “Graceful” trend. The gold finish gives the Bois 1920 box a luxurious sensory impact, with the foil and embossing working together visually and tactilely for its many customers.

The importance of the team working together

By understanding the unique selling points of a product and advocating these through its packaging, foil suppliers help brands build an emotional relationship with the customer before purchase, practically at first glance of the packaging. An example of this is API’s work with family-owned French champagne house Taittinger, which asked API to create a package that truly represented its iconic product.

Working closely with the Taittinger marketing team, API researched and developed the “Bulles-en-Fete” gift carton, which uses a special Fresnel lens and a tactile holographic lens to achieve a beguiling champagne bubble effect. The close cooperation between the supplier and the brand’s design and marketing teams was vital, affording API with a deep understanding of the brand and resulting in a package that has since become integral to Taittinger’s on-shelf brand messaging.

Packaging is the key

Foils, then, deliver real results for today’s luxury brands. The availability of metal alloys, heavy embossing and laser cuts, in combination with tactile effects and layering, allows today’s packaging designers to create ever more advanced pack solutions. The latest inks, too, offer a more tactile raised finish, and – combined with laminates, foils and substrates – can provide the kind of luxurious effect that was unattainable until recently. 

Demonstrating real value and quality starts with a product’s packaging. When integrated into the design by a multi-disciplinary team, foils help the pack and label truly represent the product inside, making it more likely to generate consumer interest and appeal among its target markets.


API is a leading manufacturer and distributor of foils, laminates and holographic materials that provide exceptional brand enhancement for consumer goods and printed media worldwide. With roots in the British paper industry, the company’s reputation is founded on a trading history going back over a century. Operating from 13 locations across Europe, America and Asia, API’s packaging solutions enable companies across a wide-range of industry sectors including premium drinks, confectionery, tobacco, perfumery, personal care, cosmetics and healthcare to empower their brands on the shelf and in the hand.

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