Nov 15, 2020
With the acceleration of online shopping brought on by COVID-19 this year, you have to wonder what the long-term impact will be on our environment. As customers, we have become so familiar and trusting of online shopping that it’s hard to imagine in years to come what we won’t be purchasing online. One company that is playing its part to lesson the environmental impact is The Better Packaging Co. We sat down with one of the co-founders, Kate Bezar, to understand more about the product range they are producing and what goes into the compost mailer bags that cherrichella uses when shipping out our shoes.
Thanks for catching up with us today Kate. You co-founded The Better Packaging Co. with Rebecca Percasky. Can you tell us how you both met and how it all started?
We both have our own ‘back story’ of how we came to passionately care about our environment, and particularly the problem of waste. We came together while working for tech start-up Starshipit. It was there that we saw the extraordinary growth in eCommerce and when Becs began thinking of ways she could make an environmental impact. “Design a more sustainable courier satchel” was one of the things on her list. She came to me with the idea and I could immediately see the potential impact. I was in, gumboots and all!
As a new brand, cherrichella set out to initially make great shoes and to use our platform to make a difference to our local community. Having great product was initially the focus. Your product line is quite technical (we imagine), how long did it take to come up with your initial collection and what were some of the early challenges?
It was many, many months of R&D before we had a product that we knew was more sustainable than the current default – a single-use PE courier satchel – and that worked! Believe it or not, there is quite a lot that goes into making a courier satchel that works – it has to be waterproof, tough, labels have to stick, the seams have to be strong …
At cherrichella we use your comPOST bags (which we LOVE). How are the bags made and what makes your product better than some of the alternatives out there?
Our compost range is partly made from plants (which is great because that’s a renewable resource) and will break down in a home compost into completely non-toxic matter – even safe for worms. They meet the most stringent certifications in this regard – this is something that’s super important to look for when you’re purchasing compostable packaging. Make sure it carries certifications AND certification numbers. Putting a symbol on the packaging without its associated number is like driving a car without a number plate! We also take product stewardship seriously and all our packaging going forward will have instructions directing people without a compost to collection sites around the world. It’s a collection network called bcollected.org We also work really hard with our production facilities to ensure that they are zero waste and that any off-cuts etc are recycled back into new packaging. We also offset the carbon footprint associated with our operations by 120% … We could go on!
When did you both know that you were onto a winning concept?
Immediately! Even though we initially thought we would be producing packaging for courier companies and large corporates, we had heaps of interest from smaller companies, who couldn’t afford (nor warrant) the high MOQs (minimum order quantities) required to produce their own branded packaging … So, we decided to do a production run for them with our branding on the bags. It was a big deal and investment for us at the time, but we sold out in two weeks! We doubled our next production run and also sold out in 2 weeks. We’ve been running ever since!
You are selling your product in over 42 countries around the world. What are some of the challenges you are faced with operating such a broad international business?
I think one of the hardest things is keeping track of stock across so many locations – current availability levels, what’s incoming, when new products are arriving in each location… It all adds to the complexity!
How much more product innovation is there to come in sustainable logistics? Are you working on anything exciting to add to your current collection of products?
Oh yes! This month we’ve just launched a new design for a courier satchel that can be reused as gift wrapping – with ribbon and card included! On our largest sizes we are also gradually rolling out a tweak to the design which means it can also be reused as something else altogether …
We’re also really proud to have introduced home compostable pallet wrap to the market this year.
Many people and businesses have been affected by COVID-19. What impact has it had on your business and do you predict any changes as a result of the virus for the future of the e-commerce / logistics industry?
COVID-19 has impacted almost every aspect of our business; manufacturing, logistics, our team and our sales. We consider ourselves very lucky. After initially being extremely apprehensive, we realised that working remotely was actually a positive thing for our business. Openly sharing such an experience brought our team closer together, to each other and also to our customers and partners around the world. Our core business is the design and production of sustainable packaging for eCommerce and with most of the developed world stuck at home, online shopping went ‘bananas’. After an initial dip, sales of our packaging actually increased exponentially through ‘lockdown’ as COVID effectively accelerated the broad adoption of online shopping. I don’t see it ever tapering off.
The office is based in Auckland. How big is the team behind TBPCo? What motivates you and your team?
We’re a relatively small team of 11 all driven by slightly different motivations, but all passionate about our work. One member of our account management team, Lillian, is a free-diver who saw firsthand the amount of plastic in our oceans and is determined to help reduce that. Another, Rachel, found that in her work as a nurse, she was always trying to reduce and recycle the huge number of single-use plastic items used in healthcare … without much luck. Wanting to be able to make a real difference, she’s now a super-valuable member of our team. And the list goes on …
On weekends you enjoy….
Hanging with my boys, watching their sport, and getting out on the water… Waking up, anchored somewhere without another person or house in sight, diving off the boat and then brewing a coffee is my idea of heaven. I’m very lucky to live somewhere that means we can actually do that!
Now to really get to know you both… who owns more shoes? Rebecca or you?
That would be Becs! I’m more of a belt girl.
If we were to call into the office during the week – what are your current go-to pair of work shoes?
Usually sneakers but very occasionally a mule – always flat!
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