In the fall of 2016, Colby Grantz, Netrush Packaging Manager, had a flash of inspiration when he was buying a pack of Craisins at a grocery store. What he saw in the palm of his hand was an existing solution to answer the question of packaging for e-commerce: a flat pouch that is easier to transport, more cost-effective to store, and made entirely from sustainably sourced materials.
Fast-forward to February 2018: the team at Netrush rolled out our first online-only package for vitamins and supplements. The EcoPack, as we know it now, has been the result of an 18-month effort, spearheaded by Colby and the team at Enzymedica.
The Sum Of Its Parts
It’s no secret that pill bottles and plastic boxes were designed to live at eye-level on grocery store shelves, not forced through a digital fulfillment model consisting of 20+ touchpoints. With e-commerce growing at 23% year over year, and at over 100 million Amazon Prime subscribers worldwide, the number of overpackaged products being shipped around the country is only going up — right alongside public demand for more sustainable packaging solutions. The collision of these two trends often causes confusion and frustration, with no simple, cheap, or easy solution for manufacturers or customers.
From our position at the digital end of retail, we see the struggle from both sides and have spent countless hours working on a solution. The EcoPack is made from renewable, plant-based materials, including Futamura NatureFlex, a renewable bioplastic, and Braskem I’m Green #4 LDPE, a recyclable material derived from sustainably sourced, non-GMO sugarcane ethanol. From an environmental standpoint, we’ve set aim for maximum reusability in as many areas of the production cycle as possible.
Considerable efforts have been made to certify the packaging at all levels. The outer packaging is transit-test certified to ensure the product stays protected, and the pouch materials are approved by the USDA BioPreferred Program — a curriculum that was created to certify products derived from plants and other renewable agricultural, marine, and forestry materials, and to provide an alternative to conventional petroleum-derived products.
We’re also looking at how using a flatter package impacts supply chain with a lower number of pallets needed to ship orders from A to B, which means fewer trucks on the road over time and less warehouse space needed for storage.
Re-creating a brand’s digital strategy requires the type of imagination and motivation to see ideas go from a random moment in a grocery store to being implemented at the manufacturer level, all the way to the front door of customers around the world. Our EcoPack is one of many solutions created to address a growing problem within the e-commerce ecosystem. More importantly, it’s a great example of the type of teamwork, dedication, and thinking that needs to happen if we want to get there.
For more on optimizing product development and packaging for e-commerce, read What Makes a Happy Product? by Netrush Director of Strategy, Raj Sapru.