Consumers demanding more from brands
Environmentalists are calling for a worldwide blanket ban on Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) due to the detrimental effect it has on human health as well as wildlife and aquatic environments. As such, consumers are increasingly expecting the brands they buy from to use sustainable alternatives to lessen their impact on the planet. Environmentally aware businesses such as Sutherlands of Portsoy are turning to packaging experts like Smurfit Kappa to help remove their use of EPS and transform their packaging into more planet-friendly solutions.
More than a century of Sutherlands of Portsoy
The 110-year-old company is one of the oldest smoked salmon producers in Scotland, supplying high-quality smoked fish both to trade clients and the general public.
John Farley, Director of Sutherlands of Portsoy, has been a valued customer of Smurfit Kappa for a number of years. John turned to the Smurfit Kappa team in 2021 with the request to develop a new type of thermal eCommerce packaging that could provide an alternative to EPS that is better for the planet and much more in line with Sutherlands of Portsoy’s sustainability initiatives. The answer was QuadFresH – a thermally effective and sustainable alternative to EPS to hit the market.
Why look for an EPS alternative?
Like Sutherlands of Portsoy, many eCommerce businesses use EPS to transport temperature-sensitive goods such as meat, fish, poultry, and cheese. However, despite its thermal benefits, EPS has several pitfalls, including the use of harmful chemicals in the production of the material.
Secondly, although EPS is recyclable, there are no major recycling facilities for it, either in the UK or even worldwide. And, since it is non-biodegradable, EPS tends to lie around for hundreds of years. It is also the primary culprit of ocean pollution; marine animals end up eating it after it has broken up into smaller pieces.
What’s more, although they consist of 80% air and are very lightweight, EPS boxes are rigid. This means they take up a lot of space when being transported – certainly in comparison to corrugated cardboard, which can be shipped flat or folded, resulting in lower transportation costs and emissions.
A ‘cooler’ packaging contender
John worked closely with the team at Smurfit Kappa to develop a new format of eCommerce packaging. The new EPS alternative packaging needed to have proven thermal properties to ensure the correct temperature remained constant throughout its transportation journey. This would mean allowing the product inside to remain fresh for up to 36 hours, therefore reaching consumers as intended and reducing the likelihood of product returns.
The packaging also needed to be easy to assemble and pack since large numbers of the product were to be sent out. Where consumers are concerned, it also needed to be as easy as possible to recycle in kerbside recycling schemes for a better, more convenient, and more environmentally conscious customer experience.
Putting a name to the packaging – QuadFresH
To produce the packaging, a sufficient thermal barrier was built up using 4 additional layers of cardboard. These layers were used to surround the product to maintain the ideal temperature. This unique structural design was also robust enough to withstand transportation, ensuring a quality and fit-for-purpose packaging solution.
Not only does QuadFresH remove the need for 2500 units of EPS a year, but it also reduces CO2 (caused by transport emissions) by around 25%. As well as the obvious benefits to food suppliers, the easy-to-recycle QuadFresH packaging provides an enhanced unboxing experience for customers, which in turn promotes brand loyalty and advocacy and ultimately shows customers that suppliers care about the impact their packaging has on the planet.
A potential award-winning new form of packaging
Sutherlands of Portsoy’s new packaging solution provides a positive brand experience for their customers with feedback including: “The new QuadFresH box is a revelation – not only does the product arrive still chilled, but the segregation of products within the box itself means none of the packaging gets water or other damage. We are delighted.” Another customer was quick to describe the packaging as “exceptional – whilst from the outside, it looks like another rigid box, but upon opening, it’s an experience”. This feedback, in particular, highlights not only the practical benefits of the packaging but also its potential to provide an exciting and worthwhile unboxing experience for customers.
At Smurfit Kappa, we’re proud of our long-standing relationships with customers like John, where we’re far more than just packaging suppliers, but packaging partners that can help customers with their evolving packaging needs as their business grows and adapts to changing consumer expectations.
Name: Suzy Gedney
About Smurfit Kappa
Smurfit Kappa, a FTSE 100 company, is one of the leading providers of paper-based packaging solutions in the world, with approximately 48,000 employees in over 350 production sites across 35 countries and with revenue of €12.8 billion in 2022. We are located in 22 countries in Europe, and 13 in the Americas. We are the only large-scale pan-regional player in Latin America. Our products, which are 100% renewable and produced sustainably, improve the environmental footprint of our customers.
With our proactive team, we relentlessly use our extensive experience and expertise, supported by our scale, to open up opportunities for our customers. We collaborate with forward-thinking customers by sharing superior product knowledge, market understanding and insights in packaging trends to ensure business success in their markets. We have an unrivalled portfolio of paper-based packaging solutions, which is constantly updated with our market-leading innovations.
This is enhanced through the benefits of our integration, with optimal paper design, logistics, timeliness of service, and our packaging plants sourcing most of their raw materials from our own paper mills.
We have a proud tradition of supporting social, environmental and community initiatives in the countries where we operate. Through these projects we support the UN Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on where we believe we have the greatest impact.