A guide to eco-friendly packaging for toiletries firms

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Sustainable practices are becoming increasingly important to firms in the toiletries sector, with eco-friendly packaging being one element seeing particular growth. Read on for the facts and some tips on how to take advantage of this trend.

Growing market

While sales of all types of packaging are seeing growth already – from $429 billion (£277 billion) in 2009 to a predicted $530 billion (£342 billion) in 2014, according to Pike Research – eco-friendly packaging looks set to surpass the wider market. Revenues from environmentally-conscious packaging will see a near 100 per cent increase next year compared with 2009, with sales forecast to reach $170 billion (£110 billion).

This is backed up by other reports looking at more long-term trends; Transparency Market Research says the global market for this type of packaging will expand by nearly two-thirds by 2018, with Europe playing a leading role in driving growth.

Types of eco-friendly packaging

Clearly, packaging from sustainable sources is something that manufacturers are keen to use. However, it’s important to note that it’s not just the obvious materials, such as cardboard, that are attracting buyers. Eco-friendly plastics represent the most significant market segment for growth – something that could have a massive effect on the wider packaging industry, Pike Research says.

This is because the overall plastic packaging sector makes up a third of the total market – so, if sustainable plastics do take off, this could have a transformative impact on the entire industry. There are some interesting examples of environmentally-friendly packaging being used by businesses in the toiletries sector; The Body Shop’s Earth Lovers range of shower gels is housed in 100 per cent biodegradable plastic bottles, while US firm Pangea Organics uses wrappers containing seeds that are capable of sprouting.

Consumer issues

If you’re considering making the leap into eco-friendly packaging, make sure it’s for the right reasons. Reducing waste can only be a good thing, both for the planet and your bottom line, but don’t assume sales will jump simply because your bottles and boxes are made from sustainable materials.

A study by Perception Research Services International suggests green packaging will only persuade consumers to buy if it is also functional and looks appealing (although there are some customers for whom product sustainability is the main issue). There’s also the financial side to consider – many advanced eco-friendly packaging types are costly to make, so passing this expense on to the shopper is unlikely to prove popular.

As such, it’s worth conducting a little market research among your client base to see whether there really is demand for sustainable packaging, much as you would when developing a new product. If you do decide to switch to green packaging, you should pay attention to labelling. Use clear, simple language to show exactly how the box or tube is eco-friendly, as well as how it can be recycled, if relevant.

Greening your business

Of course, making your packaging eco-friendly is just one facet of operating an environmentally-aware toiletries business. Taking steps to promote sustainable practices throughout your company is ultimately the best way to attract customers with a green conscience – and potentially save even more money by reducing waste. Actions could include:

• Assessing the ingredients you use in your products and seeing if there are any eco-friendly alternatives.
• Investing in more efficient packaging machinery (visit kbw-packaging.com to find out more).
• Educating staff about recycling waste and reducing energy consumption.

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