Fencor Packaging’s Neil Farrow explores ways to eco-enhance horticulture’s ecommerce market

NEIL FARROW, Group Marketing Communications Manager at Fencor Packaging Group, explains how research and technical advances can benefit the Horticulture ecommerce market…

According to researchers, an estimated 500 million plant pots and seed trays are sold in the UK every year – to about 27 million gardeners – and it’s perhaps not shocking to learn that two thirds of these pots, that’s about 340 million, end up in landfill or incinerators.

Those are huge numbers and although the likes of the RHS and HTA have admirably invested in many schemes and research to help confront and reduce this figure, the reality is that plastic is still a big problem and consumers are getting evermore concerned.

The myriad problems are only exasperated by some of the challenges consumers have with plastic re-use with the UK council recycling policies varying wildly from county to county.

So, new ideas of containers and packaging without any plastics are the way forward and great strides have been made with sustainable mediums such as Coir, Hemp and Bamboo.

Es Are Good

With the catastrophic effects of the pandemic running through work and personal lives, one of the more positive results (depending on which way you look at it) is the explosion of ecommerce businesses.

Above both France and Germany, the UK has the highest number of E-shoppers as a percentage of population in Europe and internet retail sales have grown to 32.5% of total (normal) retail sales this year alone. That’s a massive increase! Further-more stats from Retail Gazette show 75% of shoppers are modifying their buying behaviour due to ethical concerns; and that generally means sustainability.

With groups such as the HTA and RHS committed to finding plastic alternative solutions for the normal (bricks and mortar) retail market, companies like Manor Packaging are concentrating on the growing internet or ecommerce retail market.

Planting An Idea

Working with established horticultural B2B and B2C companies, Manor Packaging have developed a number of sustainable and recyclable solutions notably in the small live plant sector.

Previously, an established system of plastic moulds were used to hold plant plugs within despatch boxes before being sent out around the country but the Manor Packaging design engineers came up with a card alternative which is coated to allow for storage and transportation times.

The coated corrugated card is creased and folded within a larger structure to make sure the plug doesn’t move in transport but the real test, apart from sustainability and recycling, is in the packing process by the staff. Any difficulties in assembly would result in time lost and money wasted, so the designs were stringently tested on live packing lines as well as through various transportation methods.

Online Experience

One thing that all ecommerce businesses are learning about is the ‘WOW’ factor that has become a YouTube phenomenon over the last few years. The ‘Unboxing’ of products is seen to be the new digital ‘in-store experience’ and the majority of that experience is given through branding messages on the packaging both internally and externally. And packaging that is made of card is far easier and more economical to print on than plastic moulds. Other industries like the drinks sector have embraced this opportunity to market to a more concerned public and innovations like six pack beer can holders which have historically been plastic rings are now starting to emerge with card alternatives.

The marketing side of sales is a major battlefield, even more so now than ever before. To seriously compete you need every marketing weapon available to you… and sustainable, recyclable, branded packaging is a great weapon to have in your arsenal.

Come Together

So, in conclusion, we should all be working together, locally and globally, bringing our niche expertise to the table to stamp out plastics as much as possible. The aim of this should be for better, more sustainable working processes, better sales and marketing and perhaps more importantly, for a healthier future and a cleaner planet.

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