Packaging is much more than a cardboard box. It’s a blank canvas to tell customers what a brand is all about and even set out an ethical position. This week we look at what different companies are doing in the world of packaging.
The rise of direct-to-consumer brands (which we explore in the latest issue of Courier) has ushered in a new era of mail order. And this new world needs a hell of a lot of cardboard boxes.
Lumi, a US-based packaging company, wants to make it easier for brands to customise their own wrapping, from the cardboard boxes to the string, tape and tissue found inside. Founded in 2015, its customised packaging service has become a go-to for e-commerce brands, with clients including Threadless, Me Undies and Cotton Bureau. In February, it raised almost £7m to expand the business.
The key to its success has been in understanding that, for online-only businesses, postage boxes act almost like a shopfront.
Weengs, meanwhile, a UK-based delivery firm, will collect and pack up any items that need posting. It uses custom-sized, perfectly-fitting cardboard boxes to prevent damage in transit. Its services are popular among individual sellers on Etsy and Ebay, while boutique shop hub Trouva also uses the platform.
The worst thing about mail order? Customers having to go and collect bulky packages from post depots with inconvenient opening hours.
For subscription companies, which want customers to rely on them to regularly send packages of contact lenses, coffee or even dinners, this problem is particularly acute. It’s leading many to come up with all sorts of letterbox-friendly packaging.
Some interesting examples include Garcon Wines and flowers-by-post company Bloom and Wild’s collaboration to send out boxes of wine and flowers that can fit through the letterbox. Pasta Evangelists posts chilled boxes of fresh pasta in letterbox-sized parcels to customers in London.
It’s getting easier than ever to explore this format. Last month, European packaging giant RPC Group launched a range of ‘letterboxable’ packaging, which many companies – including Garcon Wines – use to send their goods out.
In the fight against plastic packaging, several food businesses are ditching it altogether.
Last Friday, Boston Tea Party, a coffee shop chain from Bristol, banned single-use cups (which contain plastic to stop leaks). It now sells a reusable alternative for £4.25. It’s also providing an opportunity for a bit of market research: BTP is hoping to learn how many of its take-away customers are repeats or one-offs, by comparing number of cups sold to number of take-out coffees.
Meanwhile, Troo Granola, a Kent-based food brand, has become the first to use an ‘Earthpouch’, a compostable package made from recycled materials.
It costs the same as the plastic packaging it was using before, says founder Helenor Rogers, but will reduce the product’s shelf life from one year to just six months, limiting manufacturing quantities (and therefore increasing production costs).
Since 2016, fruit snack brand Snact has also been plastic-free, using Israeli packaging firm Tipa for its compostable wrappers.
Vegware – one of the UK’s best-known compostable packaging companies – has fallen out of favour among small businesses. They’ve found it’s incredibly difficult to actually compost the packaging, which won’t break down in a back garden compost heap. Instead, Vegware’s products must be sent to designated facilities; a service currently not available country-wide, and which is hard to control when customers take cups off-site.
This article from Food Dive provides an in-depth look at how good packaging can help small businesses win customers in a crowded market.
Good-looking packaging is what drives a third of purchasing decisions – more than word-of-mouth recommendations.
A key thing for young businesses to remember is to think about the package as a whole canvas – not just a space to put a logo. Until a brand becomes an established name, a logo alone is unlikely to convince customers to pay up.
Clever packaging can be about a lot more than simply getting a parcel through the letterbox.
Several companies are showing that packaging can stay in use after a product is purchased or received.