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24 Sep 2019

Amazon, the final frontier!

Welcome to the Jungle
There is no question that Amazon has changed the game for many small businesses looking to expand to a wider audience. But the question worth asking is: at what cost?

Just as recently as September 3, 2019 Amazon has begun charging sellers a fee for products that do not comply to the Frustration Free Packaging Program guidelines. The end goal being to minimize costs and waste associated with oversized and unnecessary packaging. This is not only good news for the planet, but by reducing oversized packaging, Amazon can also reduce the cost of moving items through its distribution network.

In the recent announcement, Amazon stated that their expanded packaging requirements include transitioning smaller items from corrugated boxes to flexible mailers, optimizing boxes for a specific product’s size and weight, and implementing fully recyclable mailers. Amazon also stated that they are working with vendors to develop more “ready-to-ship” packaging.

From September 3, 2019, very item larger than 18″x14″x8″ sold through Amazon must have a design certified as ready-to-ship Tier 1 – FFP or Tier 2- SIOC. This means that the packaging must be right-sized; ensure damage protection, ready-to-ship without additional packaging needed, recyclable, and easy to open.

To gain this certification, packages must pass Amazon’s tests that are geared at simulating the conditions a package faces while in the distribution process.

These tests include; ISTA 6-Over Boxing, which tests the package’s ability to withstand environments that could cause damage; forces, motions, and various conditions of transportation. ISTA 6-SIOC Type A, B, C, D, E, F; with each type dealing with packaging of different weight categories.

Type A meant for packaging weighing less than fifty pounds, Type B for those that weighing above fifty but are not more than a hundred pounds, and Type C meant for packaging whose weight is more than a hundred pounds.

Failure to comply with the requirements by then will see suppliers incur chargeback costs of $1.99 for every package that does not meet the new standards.

More about Frustration Free Packaging here

The Packaging Problem
Have you ever bought something as basic as a USB stick, and wondered why anyone thought it was a good idea to use an oversized non-biodegradable, indestructible, plastic clamshell?

Well, the reason is fairly simple. In a retail environment, packaging often serves the dual purpose of both product branding and theft deterrent. Small products are placed in packages that might seem oversized, when in reality the goal is to make the product more difficult to steal. However, the online marketplace is different than your local Walmart. Online, there is no need for beautiful eye-catching packaging, and no need to worry about thieves walking out of the browser with your headphones. So Amazon wants to know, why not downsize and simplify?

Remember that the primary cost faced by online retailers is in shipping. Larger packaging equals greater shipping costs, and Amazon wants its suppliers to help cut those costs.

Giving Up Control
Amazon’s requirements might seem reasonable at first glance– until you consider the risks involved with retooling your business to fit one platform.

This strategy is similar to the strict packaging requirements instituted by other large retailers. For example, both Walmart and Sam’s Club have long required vendors to provide exclusive sizes and quantities for their membership club, which makes price comparison more difficult.

That is not an issue if you are company the size of Nabisco and Coca Cola, but it can be a huge financial commitment from smaller brands looking to break into the big box stores.

New packaging also changes the branding and overall unboxing experience for customers. This might seem inconsequential, but in fact it isn’t. The association between a product and its packaging is often more powerful than one might think. Can you imagine if Coca Cola was sold in a Tetrapak?

The Lesson for Entrepreneurs
The real lesson is this: be wary of building your business around someone else’s platform. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sell on Amazon, or advertise on social media, but you should certainly assess the risk of pigeonholing your brand into one avenue of distribution.

It certainly can be tempting for driven small businesses to want to dive head first into a marketplace that puts their brand on the world stage. But it is also worth pausing to consider what risks might be associated with kowtowing to Amazon’s ever changing requirements.

5 Star Packaging can help your brand navigate the treacherous waters of online retail packaging, and serve as a one-stop shop for custom flexible packaging, corrugated, and chipboard boxes. Feel free to request a quote on our homepage, and a representative will contact you shortly to help.

26 Jun 2019

Stand Up Pouches…Stand Up Pouches Everywhere!

Why Stand Up Pouches?
The next time you find yourself at your local grocer, retailer, or big box store, take a closer look at the flexible packaging solution that is taking over retail shelves everywhere. Stand up pouches have quickly risen in popularity as the 'go to' packaging solution for literally everything from soups to nuts. Stand up pouches offer value to the end user because they keep products fresher and increase a product’s shelf life. Stand up pouches also require fewer resources to produce, are less costly to transport, and have a smaller carbon footprint than other packaging alternatives. For example, stand up pouches allow for more efficient packing into master shippers than unit cartons or plastic clamshells. Thus reducing both distribution costs and harmful emissions. This is because stand up pouches reduce "slack fill" a.k.a. the difference between the actual capacity of a container and the volume needed by the product. Of course, customers want to feel like they are getting the most “bang for their buck.” But the added benefit with stand up pouches is that a certain amount of brand loyalty is created when a brand responds to consumer feedback, and adjusts their products and packaging accordingly.

One of the most common requests we receive when a customer approaches us to develop a new flexible packaging solution is to help them select a material that is sustainable, eco-friendly, and recyclable. Kraft stand up pouches are some of our best-selling packaging for environmentally conscious brands. This is because kraft paper communicates a less refined and thus more natural product. However, there other options available to brands looking for recyclable stand up pouches as well. Brands that are currently using non-recyclable stand up pouches—or any other kind of non-recyclable flexible packaging—can benefit from making the switch to a recyclable film. Big brands like Nestle, LEGO, Kraft Heinz, and others have committed to offering 100% recyclable, compostable, or reusable packaging within the next few years, and consumers are looking to other brands to follow suit.

The Nielsen Global Report on Corporate Social Responsibility recently polled 30,000 consumers worldwide and found that 55% of consumers are willing to pay more for products from companies “committed to positive social and environmental impact”. Furthermore, 52% of their respondents said that that their purchasing decisions are influenced by whether or not the product uses sustainable packaging.

Environmental Impacts and What to Consider
Remember that one of the key reasons that companies and consumers both embrace flexible retail packaging is its positive environmental impact. Contrary to popular belief, pouches can be recycled with other R-7 coded plastic products. Unfortunately, not every consumer recycles, and it’s up to individual brands to properly communicate the importance of taking care of the environment to their customers. But don't be misled by many of the promises made by companies claiming that there products are biodegradable. Even if the bag itself is biodegradable, there is an important caveat to consider. Please see the short video from about the distinction between recyclable and biodegradable, and what that means for stand up pouches.

There are a few things to remember when considering the environmental impact of stand up pouches, whether they are printed or plain. Stand up pouches are made from different laminated barrier films. In other words, each pouch is composed of layers of different types of film that are sealed together to create a structure that can be formed into a stand up pouch, stick pack, sachet, or flexible bag, etc.

A stand up pouch that is made from kraft paper, but combined with other film layers IS recyclable and landfill friendly, but once it is laminated it is no longer biodegradable. There are many good reasons why these pouches are not biodegradable, but the main reason is that if they were then the product inside would not be protected and sealed very well. To be biodegradable, packaging has to be able to break down when exposed to light and air. However, one of the biggest advantages of using kraft stand up pouches for product packaging is that their laminated layers of barrier film and opaque finish block out sunlight and air. The protective layers extend the shelf life of food, and protect it from spoilage via contact with harmful outside contaminants. Remember that food spoilage is a huge waste, and creates a very large carbon footprint.

In sum, stand up pouches have become a popular packaging solution for brands. This is because they keep products fresher, require fewer resources to produce, are much more efficient to transport, and have a smaller carbon footprint overall than other packaging alternatives. Feel free to contact us and see what solutions we have to suit your product. Our digital and flexographic printing capabilities allow us to produce great looking flexible packaging at both very low and high quantities at a competitive price.

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