With the award-winning ‘Blue Planet’ David Attenborough series raising public awareness of marine plastics, and news reports of plastic waste being shipped overseas, consumers are more conscious than ever of the impact of their buying choices. Re-usable water bottles have become a must-have accessory and the big coffee brands are getting on board with the push towards reducing waste with discounts for customers that provide their own cup.
But there is still much to be done. Plastic packaging remains a serious threat to the environment…and it is also now a serious threat to brand equity, as consumers actively seek out more sustainable packaging as an integral part of product selection. The challenge for brands and retailers is identifying alternatives to plastic that will offer improved credentials as a renewable and recyclable material, while providing sufficient protection for the product.
The drivers for change
At Herbert Walkers, we are specialists in printing carton packaging for food, beverage and cosmetics products. The packaging we print and finish in-house at our ISO 9001 accredited factory has to be transported across the country, and sometimes across Europe too. It may have to provide protection for glass bottles or delicate food items, and it often has to be durable enough to withstand being stacked on shelf in a busy retail environment and handled at multiple points in the delivery chain, as well as being transported home by the consumer.
For decades the durability, flexibility and low cost of plastic made it a go-to packaging choice for brands and retailers, but the sustainability credentials of a product’s pack are now becoming as much of a differentiator in the minds of many consumers as the product itself. Consequently, brands and retailers are looking to companies like Herbert Walkers to help them develop solutions that will perform to the standards needed by the product, while conforming to the environmental standards expected by their customers.
So, how can we help?
Firstly, when we consider board as an alternative to plastic, it is far from a one-size-fits all solution. A significant aspect of the support we provide at Herbert Walkers is to understand the product, its distribution requirements, and the sales environment in which it will be on shelf. From here we can advise on the type of board required to provide the right level of durability and aesthetics at a viable cost per unit.
For many of our gifting projects, we provide the client with different carton options, prior to design of the pack artwork. Each of these blanks can then be transit tested to offer our client an evidenced-based optioneering process that allows them to select their preferred board and format for the pack.
For projects where the carton needs to contain a bottle, we are meticulous in ensuring that the carton offers the correct fit to protect the bottle from knocks while enabling it to be removed smoothly and easily from the pack. Our end-to-end in-house processing, including die cutting, transit testing and cutting, folding, and gluing lines, mean that we can always offer an assurance of accuracy.
For brands and retailers already using board packaging but looking for alternatives to a plastic window, we can also offer expert guidance. In some cases, it may be possible to keep an aperture but remove the plastic. On others, high-definition printing of good quality photography can replicate the look of a window, while delivering a 100 per cent board pack.
For brand and product managers looking for solutions to create exciting packs using board, we have all the finishing techniques required to bring extra wow factor to the project, with every process delivered in-house by our team as part of our integrated, multidisciplinary service. The use of foils, varnishes, embossing and debossing can all be used to help a board pack stand out on shelf, while delivering both the robust protection and recyclability required.
Not all plastic packs can be converted to cartons and the packaging industry is a dynamic environment where biodegradable and marine reclaim materials are being pioneered as part of the solution. The variety of boards available and the expertise of a packaging print specialist that understands materials, formats and finishes, like we do at Herbert Walkers, can help to deliver recyclable, sustainable solutions that meet both commercial requirements and consumers’ environmental expectations.