As you saw in last week’s blog, one of Amazon’s biggest policy changes in 2016 involved glass jars. Now, any glass container with over 4 oz. of liquid can only be shipped if you’ve obtained “frustration free” packaging approval. This is a big deal to a lot of manufacturers, and so it’s a big deal to us.
We’re going to talk about some of the options you might have if you sell a product in glass. Since we don’t know much about boxing processes, we’re taking a different route than usual. We’re actually going to speak to a packaging expert Matt Votral, who works for Jarrett Industries. The blog is in a Q & A format so you can read first-hand some options for protecting those glass products that you poured your blood, sweat and tears into.
Tell us a little about Jarrett Industries.
Jarrett Industries is a small, woman-owned business that has been in the packing game for over 35 years. As a master distributor, we can supply the complete package - from the container of the product itself, to protective packaging, to the outer box for when an item is shipped.
What are some of the most common items you produce?
Mostly boxes and bags. When I say bags, that can include a range of materials. We’re also heavily into biotech and pharmaceutical industry, because packaging has to be FDA approved, which means uncommon technical needs like sterilization.
What are some of the products that benefit the most from the packaging you create?
Really any product you’re shipping is receiving the benefit of the package itself. If it is an industrial situation, where you’re shipping from point A to point B, then of course there is the protective aspect of it. Then there is the design -- the “pretty” packages that make sales through the high graphics created by a design team.
How do your custom designs work better than other more generalized products? Will you work with products that are already partially packaged?
Oftentimes, when people approach us, it’s because they have a pain point -- either with their existing design, or their current supplier. While our turnkey solutions are common, we will also work with manufacturers who simply need one part of the puzzle. Generally, the outer box doesn’t provide much protection. So, more often we provide something for inside the boxes such as a corrugated insert, clamshell case, foam or air cushioning depending on your product’s needs.
What’s the process you would go through if you are given a product that already has its initial packaging?
We look at the product’s journey - from its manufacturing, to its distribution, to its sale. You have to design around that and incorporate safety measures. So, for example, if you were shipping a glass jar, you have to think about its destination. Is it going onto a store shelf, shipping direct to consumer, or being sent out as part of an assorted holiday set? The way you package the product for each scenario will be different.
Do you have options for people who are concerned with the environmental impact of their packaging?
Absolutely. Demand for this has really grown recently, so there are many great sustainable alternatives on the market. Unfortunately, people love these until they see the price, when they say, “Oh my gosh, why’s that forty percent higher than the other choices?”
The answer is: it has to be reprocessed, rehandled, remanufactured — so there’s a lot more that goes into it and this results in a premium price. We offer a lot of options, everything from recycled paperboard products to molded pulp products, products made from cornstarch that are totally biodegradable (starch and bamboo based) to plastic products that are easily recycled.
If you were working with, say, a single jar of pickles, what types of inner packaging would you recommend?
Most often, it will probably be encapsulated in EPS foam (in layman’s terms styrofoam). If you’ve ever ordered through the online wine services where you get wine mailed to your house, probably this is how the wine is shipped. The other option would be inflatable packaging, which is a film sleeve that slides over the jar and is then inflated with forced air. This is much more professional than standard bubble wrap. Another option might be an end cap insert, which suspends the item in an insert and creates an airspace on the top and bottom of the jar.
How do the pricing options compare on those options?
Generally, end cap and bubble wrap will be the most competitive choice. Foam is reasonably priced, but it is cumbersome which makes storage tricky. The inflatable packaging, while it is really awesome, is custom… which means it does tend to cost more and will likely have 20,000-25,000 piece minimums.
I imagine many options have order minimums. So, if you’re a relatively new brand producing only 20-30 pallets, what’s your recommendation for a fragile glass-type product that is trying to start out in ecommerce? Is there a good stop gap before custom packaging?
Actually, that number of pallets is totally reasonable to create some types of custom packaging - including cardboard, foam pads or something similar to go in between. As long as you’re running 500 pieces or more of each product, you’ll be in the realm of doing something custom. If you were, say, shipping out only ten cases of something I’d say, “Find a stock option.”
If someone’s building a business plan, how much would you have them budget for packing, assuming they are using a glass product?
That’s a really tough question. We sell into every industry under the sun, and everyone’s packing budget is different. We’d recommend developing an A, B and C plan based on your target market and how you will deliver your product. It’s really going to come down to the volume that you’re buying and also how you are shipping -- thirty products at a time, or onesies and twosies -- will affect that ratio.
I’ll give an example, though, knowing the sort of clients you all serve. Let’s say you want to ship out a jar of spaghetti sauce. In the $6-8 range, you can expect to pay about $1 per shipment in order to protect that sauce. This is assuming you buy 2500-5000 protective units. Again, this is just rough - without knowing your exact size and design, it’s tough to say for sure.
Just for fun, what’s the largest glass product you’ve worked with?
Hmm… that’s a tough question, too. We do a lot of government work, and there was actually a satellite dish with a round glass globe that was three feet across that we we had to ship to the appropriate location.
Thinking about the best protective options for your particular product can be a challenge, but it's worth remembering that there are experts out there to help. Whitebox likes to look into our customer's challenges even if they exist beyond the realm of our normal responsibilities. If you have an interest in working with us or with Jarrett Industries, please reach out.