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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Value-Engineered Packaging:
Does Your Packaging Reflect Your Brand Values?

Consider working with a packaging engineer the next time you release a new product or as you take steps to make your brand more sustainable. Customised packaging solutions create less waste, fewer emissions, and more savings to pass on to your customers. 

Most brands know not only the branding opportunities that custom packaging presents but also the environmental benefits. 

Every species of marine turtle has been recorded as being stuck in plastic ocean pollution. And, while we are recycling more packaging, we’re also using more packaging than ever before. 

It’s a brand’s responsibility to address this sustainability issue and use better packaging, but also less of it. 

But where do the concepts of ‘better’ packaging and ‘less’ packaging cross? 

Does less always mean better?

This somewhat rhetorical problem is solved by value-engineered packaging. 

What is value-engineered packaging?

Value-engineered packaging uses technical design, materials technology and environmental policy to influence the creation of your packaging from the ground up, specifically for your product(s). 

This concept is in opposition to go-to packaging solutions that are readily available off the shelf. 

A packaging engineer is an individual with a background in physics, design and sourcing materials — they’re responsible for creating your ideal, sustainable packaging solutions. They look at not just the physical packaging used but also where (and how) it’s produced, and its position in your fulfillment process and supply chain. They also take elements such as security, thermal insulation and ease of use during the delivery process into account. 

Image credit: Packhelp

A fine, real-world example of value engineered packaging is Raylo. The British telco brand worked with a packaging engineer to create a single packaging solution for its iPhone subscription service — that lowered its packaging costs by 11 percent, and its overall shipment weight by 21 percent. 

The company did this simply by redesigning a standard mailing box to suit its pre-packaged phone, while also encapsulating all the necessary accessories. 

It isn’t about reinventing the wheel

When you research “sustainable packaging,” most resources focus solely on the materials used:

These are all pioneering ideas that will further shape the industry. But these concepts focus on just the materials being used, rather than how the materials are used. 

What’s more sustainable — plant-based bubble wrap or a packaging solution that removes the need for any form of internal cushioning?

So, as you take steps into the world of packaging sustainability, consider the role that physical design can play, too. 

Value-engineered packaging looks at all your packaging products, as well as the processes in which your packaging is used. With this comprehensive approach, you can find cost reductions but also environmental savings. 

A packaging engineer looks at all of your products and packaging, and uses them to influence a single, new packaging design. Packaging that can go from storage to out the door as quickly as possible saves you time and spends less energy and resources in the process. 

Sustainability and value-engineered packaging

Image credit: Packhelp

There are several benefits to value-engineering your packaging over off-the-shelf options: 

  • Uses less: Packaging that’s designed specifically for your product only uses the amount of material that’s necessary. While the packaging is tailored to your products’ shape and size, security is far from compromised. Security is built into the design of the packaging product. Internal anchor points to hold your product in place mean that there’s no need for a second type of packaging filler. The result is fewer materials being needed to perform the same role. 

  • Lower carbon footprint: As your value-engineered packaging uses only the necessary amount of materials, it weighs less — meaning fewer emissions created during production, delivery and shipping. Bonus tip: Another way to lower your packaging’s carbon emissions is to use centrally or locally located manufacturers. Furthermore, packaging designed for your specific products means that less energy is expended in delivering your orders. This type of packaging also saves money in the form of lower delivery fees — a saving that can make your brand more sustainably and financially competitive. 

  • Less need for fillers: The power of customised packaging comes from the number of jobs it can do, thus eliminating the need for other packaging products. That’s one less packaging expense and one less material that needs to be thrown away. 

  • Better branding: Value-engineered packaging also helps your branding. You’re able to build a better unboxing experience and create a better first impression. 

Start with substitution

Image credit: Packhelp

Value-engineered packaging solutions fulfill the needs of both ecommerce and retail. 

To see the potential benefits of value-engineered packaging for your brand, look at the solutions you’re already using and consider substitution. 

Chances are you’re using the humble cardboard corrugated box. That’s not a bad thing — corrugated mailing boxes are probably one of the most eco-friendly packaging solutions on the market. They’re made from recycled paper pulp. Consumers can easily recycle it.

But also consider the relationship between your packaging material and your products. Do your shirts really need to be packaged in a durable, corrugated box? Perhaps a mailing bag is the better option. 

Compared to corrugated cardboard, mailing bags are lightweight, take up less space, and are just as durable. Plus, some varieties break down in home compost facilities; and there’s no need for tape or stickers to seal your box closed. 

The point is this: You can be your own packaging engineer by substituting existing materials and reevaluating your current packaging choices. 

Smaller accessories such as socks, wallets, and gloves can benefit from smaller alternative packaging solutions, too. A paper can is entirely customizable and small enough to save space and postage costs. 

On the other hand, corrugated cardboard may be the best option if you’re selling both online and in retail stores. Traditionally, thin-walled cardboard is used for retail packaging. But if you’re putting that retail packaging into a mailer box, what’s the point of using the thin-walled retail packaging at all? 

Ask yourself if your packaging solution is the best option for your business and the environment, or if it’s just the go-to solution that you opted for.

Fewer packaging SKUs

As you’ve just read, there’s a wealth of environmental savings to come from value-engineered packaging. These environmental savings often result in financial savings, too — and significantly lower the number of packaging SKUs you need. Your packaging engineer can create a single packaging solution for every product that you sell. 

Of course, if you’re selling camping fridges and t-shirts, this may not be a practical option. But a packaging engineer can take products of a similar size and create a single, unified solution. 

This is a powerful tool if your brand is scaling, as you can now access volume-based discounts as you can buy more of a single packaging product. With fewer packaging SKUs, you’re also able to save more space in your warehouse, leading to more fulfillment efficiencies.

Over to you

Consider working with a packaging engineer the next time you release a new product or as you take steps to make your brand more sustainable. By creating customised packaging solutions specifically for your brand from the ground up, you benefit the environment and your business. There’s less waste, fewer carbon emissions, and more savings to pass on to your customers.