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Pivoting from Plastic

Why you shouldn’t be investing in large quantities of packaging (even if it seems like a deal).

Plastic, plastic, plastic. It’s the buzzword of 2021 and after years of consumers throwing their hands up in frustration about the overpackaged and overuse of plastic in the beauty industry, companies, brands, and governments are reacting. The UK is proposing a tax on the production and importation of plastic packaging if it has less than 30 percent recycled content. The EU has a new charge as of January 2021 that calculates nonrecycled plastic packaging waste and applies a fee. Australia has approved initiatives underway, and it is only a matter of time before Canada and key markets in the US impose their own regulations.

Big multinationals aren’t as agile to pivot with market conditions, so when they have plans in place you know the consumer trend for less plastic is strong. Unilever and L’Oreal both committed that all of their plastic packaging will be rechargeable, refillable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025.

Most brands and marketers are looking at their packaging now to ensure it meets new regulations or opting for something else entirely like glass, metal, paper, or wood. Many will make a pro and cons list for each material that will probably include cost, contamination, safety, ease of transport, and compatibility of formula to name a few. They are also reaching out to packaging manufacturers to see what they have by way of innovation.

But are other materials better?

After reading and studying about all the packaging options afforded to brands, we came across quite a few studies that discussed glass’s environmental impact.

One, it takes a disproportionate amount of sand to create our world’s glass needs and the Earth doesn’t replenish it as quickly as we consume it (at today’s rates). Two, we are also terrible at recycling glass. Better than plastic, but still only about 33% and third, glass takes 1 million years to break down compared to the 450+ years for plastic.

Truthfully, we stopped investigating all the materials since after a few quick searches we could find environmental impact with any material. As more studies and more information is released, opinions will continue to evolve on what is “sustainable” and is not. Priorities will change and we want to able to adjust as needed. So what is one way we can look to solve the problem of sustainable packaging?

Stop buying large quantities of packaging.

It is the one constant in any company or brand we have worked with, packaging changes.

New regulations, labeling, or INCI names are needed. Rebranding is typically done every 3-5 years to stay relevant, on-trend, and or because a new marketing team is in place. It is convincing to buy the bigger quantity to get the great rate. We think our brains even feel good in that moment that “we got a deal.”

Don’t buy into bulk MOQs. Don’t do it. It is not worth having packaging that represents years of inventory at your current sell-through rate and it doesn’t make sense in this industry. Give yourself options, even if your per-unit costs are a bit more. The benefit is that you will be able to adapt quickly to new market demands, stay relevant and not throw away empty containers you never used. One extra benefit is new packaging is something new to engage consumers about (even if it is the same formula) and creates noise for your brand!

Even thinking about the storage fees to keep the extra packaging on hand, the cost to throw thousands away (which has happened to us at every brand) or even the intangible stress caused by bottles sitting on a shelf not moving, creates negative feelings about your sales, whether they are true or not.

Buy smaller quantities, continue to evolve with your consumer, and enjoy the feeling of having to place PO’s for packaging more often. It may be a trick on the brain, but the “need to place an order” creates positive feelings around your sales, allows you to make adjustments, and allows you to consume all of it.

One day, we will sit down and actually do the analysis of what a true 50K bottle order costs per unit. I am expecting once we factor in warehouse storage costs and the amount that were actually used vs thrown away it will be nowhere close to the deal we thought we were getting.

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