Highly regarded in the field of glass containers for the luxury perfumery and cosmetics industry, Verescence develops bespoke bottles for customers, as well as offering a wide range of stock bottles for customisation.
Founded in 1896, the Mers-les-Bains glass factory in France’s Bresle Valley operates 24/7, 365 days a year and has a production capacity of 200 million bottles per year – comprising almost half of the total capacity of the Verescence Group. French operations represent 60% of overall activity within the group, with a €180 million turnover (Spanish operations account for 25% and North American operations 15%).
As General Manager of Verescence France, Hélène Marchand is responsible for the brand’s three factories: Mers-les-Bains for glass and Verescence Orne and Verescence Somme for decoration.
“Our customers are the biggest beauty groups leading the international market, such as Estée Lauder, LVMH, L’Oréal, Shiseido, Revlon, MAST, PUIG, Hermès, Chanel, Interparfums and Clarins” Ms Marchand reveals. Verescence’s offering includes Xtra Flint glass (valued by perfumers for its brightness and transparency), high quality PCR (post-consumer recycled) glass and coloured glass including Mineral Glass and Red Glass, which are exclusive to the company.
Verescence developed SCULPT’in glass, a patented technology for creating individual shapes inside a bottle with a standard neck opening, for example the Arizona fragrance by Proenza Schouler, which features an asymmetric distribution of glass to hold the perfume at an angle inside the bottle. Guerlain’s Abeille Royale Cream employs Verescence’s technique for creating very thin glass walls – ensuring a lightweight product for ultimate portability, while the Terre d’Hermès perfume features a luxurious heavyweight design with a thick glass base. The company also makes fragrance miniatures.
“Some of the key global leaders in the beauty market are located in France and we are very proud to contribute to their international success” says Ms Marchand. “Proximity during the development phase is a key factor of success given the high complexity of the new launches on the luxury beauty market” she notes.
Verescence’s French knowhow is then deployed (if required) in Spain and the USA. “Internally, being part of a group creates synergies by sharing best practices, benchmarking between departments and efficiency [using] the same ‘One Verescence’ language and [employing] the same standards on certain key processes” Ms Marchand explains. “At the same time, the specific nature of our group is to give a dose of autonomy to each site, in order to encourage local initiatives and agility.”
Dedicated to decoration
In 1968, Verescence acquired its first decoration site: Verescence Orne, in Ecouché, France, followed by an Abbeville factory for Verescence Somme in 1989.
“Since 1968, we have gradually integrated more techniques and developed innovative decoration technologies” says Ms Marchand. “More than 90% of our finishing operations are now done in-house (in 2020). By having these techniques internally, we can optimise our customer service and maintain better control of quality and costs. In addition, we are able to innovate more in decoration, for example COLOR’in and METAL’in (an interior colour or metallic coating compatible with the bottle’s contents).”
In France, Verescence is responsible for over 300 million decoration passes per year. “Today, nearly half of the added value of Verescence comes from decoration and this trend is growing” Hélène Marchand explains.
“In recent years, Verescence has made significant investments to gain flexibility and increase production capacities” she reports. These include an acid etching machine, gluing machines, hot stamping lines, latest generation silk screening machines, the latest equipment for lacquering lines (to reduce lacquer consumption by nearly 30%) and 3D printing for decoration tools.
The company is keen to explore progressive digital decoration technology to complement its screen printing techniques. “We are closely monitoring innovative digital printing techniques that could match the aesthetic requirements of luxury brands, while bringing value to the end consumer” Ms Marchand notes. “In 2019, we manufactured the limited edition of Bulgari perfume Rose Goldea with inkjet technology with one of our Bresle Valley partners. This is still a niche market today.”
“We [will] focus our next investments on strategic modernisation projects such as automation and robotisation (new control machines, robots to improve working conditions and efficiency), digitisation (new generation of manufacturing execution systems) and investments to meet our CSR (corporate social responsibility) commitments (energy consumption in particular)” Hélène Marchand continues.
Following a €30 million renovation programme at Mers-Les-Bains, which included the reconstruction of its largest glass melting furnace, Verescence’s 2022 ‘Forming the Future’ project aims to make the group “the global reference in the sustainable beauty industry”. According to Ms Marchand, the strategic plan will be supported by an outlay of €122 million to improve industrial performance, with investment in automation and digitisation, acceleration of innovation and CSR objectives.
Verescence employs a workforce of 1400 people in France; 800 in Mers-les-Bains, 250 at Verescence Orne and 350 at Verescence Somme. In addition, the company works with many local suppliers. “Our suppliers are genuine partners and we work with them towards innovation momentum” Ms Marchand explains. “More than 96% of our purchases are made locally. This proximity to our suppliers guarantees rapid speed to market and superior service.”
The company’s performance is made possible by “the commitment of our people” Hélène Marchand underlines. “Our priorities are: Health and safety – a move towards zero accidents and improvement of working conditions by limiting the repetitive movements; using the Verescence Academy to strengthen skills in new equipment technologies and in continuous improvement; use of new tools to improve the effectiveness of our training courses on glass and decoration (e-learning programmes with videos etc); strengthening our organisations with new talents to accelerate our strategic projects (CSR, automation); and diversity – increasing the intelligence of our organisations through the recruitment of female employees for the fields of production, engineering and management and strengthen international mobility between our sites.”
Sustainability is a driving force in the beauty market, Ms Marchand contends. “When it comes to packaging for beauty, glass is rated number one for customer experience (‘glass signifies luxury’); for health (glass is a non-controversial material) and for sustainability (glass is infinitely recyclable).”
Verescence championed water-based lacquers “10 years ago” Hélène Marchand recollects, “we encouraged our clients to remove solvent-based solutions. We also encourage them to use more sustainable decorations, for example by replacing precious metal with hot stamping, enamels with organic inks.”
Glass production is an energy-intensive activity, Ms Marchand acknowledges. “In our industry, the environmental impact depends primarily on the energy consumption of furnaces. Verescence has massively renewed its furnaces in recent years, with significant reduction of CO2 emissions and energy consumption (-15%). However, we want to go further and prepare for the future, which is why, together with European glass partners, we are actively contributing to the financing and development of a more efficient pilot furnace by 2023 (FEVE’s ‘Furnace of the Future’ initiative).”
Such projects are essential in the face of the urgency of climate change, asserts Ms Marchand. “It is our common duty to respond to climate challenges and move together towards climate-neutral glass packaging.”
Showing its support for similar initiatives, Verescence committed to set a science-based greenhouse gas emissions reduction target by joining the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). “Our membership in the SBTi allows us to structure a long-term approach to reducing our emissions and energy consumption, making the work of our technical experts even more meaningful in the years ahead” says Hélène Marchand. “Our objective is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and we are currently considering many projects to achieve this goal.”
Verescence has also partnered with Engie, Fives and Saverglass in the French ‘VERCANE: fusion de VERre CArboNEutre’ (carbon neutral glass melting) consortium, which Ms Marchand describes as “an ambitious R&D programme to support the industrial glass sector in its efforts to decarbonise glass production.”
The glass packaging recycling rate in France is 85% and the ‘Verre 100% Solutions’ Commitment Charter in France sets a goal of 100% recycled glass by 2030, ie zero non-recovered waste.
“However studies show that glass beauty packaging is behind beverages and food and some consumers still do not know how to sort their glass containers” Ms Marchand cautions. “Our customers are currently working hard to inform and educate the end consumer to do the right thing, in order to make the recycling of glass products possible, even in beauty.”
To support this endeavour, the company classifies the impact that decorations have on the recyclability of glass and “makes it a point of honour to ban the development of a decoration technique that could make the recyclability of glass more difficult” states Hélène Marchand.
A pioneer in PCR glass for luxury fragrances and cosmetics glass packaging, in 2021 Verescence plans to dedicate its largest furnace in Mers-les-Bains to the production of Verre Infini 20 (containing 20% PCR) additionally to the existing Verre Infini 40 (containing 40% PCR). Verre Infini 20 will be deployed in Spain and the USA by the end of 2021. At Verescence Orne and Verescence Somme, there are initiatives for reducing lacquer sludge.
Globally, Verescence recycled an impressive 82% of its waste in 2019 and aims to raise this figure to 97% by 2022.
In 2018, Verescence became the first glassmaker to win the EcoVadis Gold Medal for all its sites and in 2020, the company was awarded Platinum for all its plants. Verescence scored a 79/100, ranking among the top 1% of the most committed and most advanced companies in CSR.
“We believe that CSR is key for our company project, for our employees, for our customers and for end consumers” says Ms Marchand. “This is key to be able to get a measure of all the work done in this direction and to absolutely avoid greenwashing. EcoVadis is a very good referential, understandable and used also by our clients with more than 60,000 companies assessed worldwide, all sectors combined."
“Verescence has also been scored ‘B’ by CDP for both Water Security and Climate Change 2020 disclosure, recognising our commitment to transparency and our work towards a climate and water secure future” she adds. At Mers-les-Bains, 97% of the factory’s water is currently collected and treated through a rainwater storage system and plans are afoot to convert it into a completely ‘dry’ plant."
Coping with the coronavirus
Responsible for an estimated 30% decrease in the beauty market, with little prospect of a full recovery before 2023, the coronavirus crisis is “a highly problematic situation for an industry with a high proportion of fixed costs like the glass industry” Ms Marchand suggests. “The pandemic has significantly impacted the beauty market but demand for prestige skincare products has been more resilient than demand for fragrance and makeup products” she observes.
Regardless, “our top priority has and will always be the health and safety of our employees” she maintains.
During the first wave of the crisis in March and April 2020, Verescence’s position was to maintain the activity of its three plants. “We adapted the capacity our facilities to minimise the impact on our operations, while maintaining activity to support customers still in operation, for whom it was necessary to guarantee continuity of service, to work on their new launches and to secure their strategic lines” Hélène Marchand explains. “By maintaining the activity of our three plants, we have been able to give business to our suppliers, while helping the healthcare personnel of our communities (mask donations, supply of bottles and packaging of hydroalcoholic gel, loan of vehicles etc)” she adds.
Overall, the crisis has shown the importance of a strong local footprint, while maintaining co-operation across the group’s territories.
It has also been an expeditor of change, Ms Marchand believes, citing a transformation of the beauty market: “Accelerated growth in sales of skin care products, increased weight of Asia in the consumption of beauty products, decrease of travel retail sales (15% of the market) and rising demand for glass (‘glassification’) for beauty packaging, whether for aesthetic, health or environmental reasons.”
In addition digital transformation has seen an acceleration of Verescence’s industry 4.0 projects (big data, connected glasses, information systems and new control technologies) and the company has turned to new working and communication methods; implementation of digital tools to enable employees to carry out teleworking activities or to exchange information without travelling internally or with clients.
Amid growing consumer concerns about the environment, Verescence has fast-tracked projects to reduce the environmental impact of its businesses and decarbonisation of the glass packaging industry. “The pandemic has accelerated challenges for the glass packaging industry related to CSR” Ms Marchand maintains. “Today more than ever, we need to be able to present the advantages of glass versus plastic, respond to the desire of consumers to ‘de-plasticise’ their beauty packaging and defend our local ecosystem.”
In September 2020, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, the French Minister for Industry visited the Mers-Les-Bains factory as part of the ‘France Relance’(France Relaunch) economic, social and ecological recovery plan for the next 10 years. “Verescence will benefit from the support of the French government to pursue industrial investments related to energy efficiency and industry 4.0 in the context of the Covid-19 crisis” says Hélène Marchand. “We were also very proud to let (Ms Pannier-Runacher) discover our unique knowhow and to share with her our strategy for the coming years.”
Facing up to the future
“We are determined to stay on course of our Verescence 2022 project, despite a very strong storm (Covid-19) and at the same time, we want to accelerate some key topics; structural impact of the crisis on the demand, industry 4.0 and CSR – a very big challenge” acknowledges Ms Marchand.
“We know that the recovery of the beauty market may take time with ups and downs but we hope that this crisis will ultimately be beneficial for the market by strengthening our eco-system with stronger links with our suppliers and customers and accelerating key changes in the way we work and the tools we use. In the long-term, we aim to strengthen our company’s leadership but also to keep its pioneering spirit, which gives it agility, as well as the ability to anticipate and adapt to market changes. In addition, we want to be able to offer alternatives to plastic in all beauty categories and to be collectively, with all glassmakers, the best in class in terms of sustainability."
“One of the core values of our group is passion” Hélène Marchand concludes: “Passion for the beauty of the products we produce every day; passion for our material: infinitely recyclable and which can last for ever; passion for innovation, excellence and progress; and passion that unifies Verescence employees and will make it possible to go through this historic crisis and face new challenges.”
Verre Infini is a registered trademark of Verescence.