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Bottle boxes: 8 considerations (besides protection in transit)

David Mason: Last Updated 17th February 2022
Posted In: Efficiency & Productivity | Guides & Advice | Miscellaneous
https://www.gwp.co.uk/author/David-Mason/ xx 31633

Achieving Customer Satisfaction

Your bottle boxes should offer more than just transit protection

The key consideration when sourcing bottle boxes – quite rightly – is whether they will protect their often incredibly valuable (and frequently fragile) contents through postal or courier services.

What is therefore often overlooked is a number of other factors that go into making successful bottle packaging.

This guide has therefore been created to highlight the key considerations that your business must take into account if you want to not only ensure safe transit of your bottles, but to delight your customers too.

It covers:

  • How print is more than just branding
  • How materials used can alter brand perception
  • Why sustainability is crucial
  • The range of insert options available
  • And much more besides

You can use the table of contents below to go straight to a specific topic / consideration, or alternatively continue reading for a well-rounded overview of all 8 bottle box considerations.

Quick Reference / Contents

Introduction

Why bottle packaging is important

Consumer habits are changing. Partly driven by the move to ecommerce and restrictions imposed to counter COVID-19, more and more people are buying alcohol online for delivery to their home.

In fact, the IWSR predicts that online sales of alcoholic beverages will increase by as much as 66% over the next 5 years.

This is backed up by statistics indicating that whilst ecommerce sales of drinks increased by 12% in 2019 (the last year before the pandemic struck), the figure jumped to 43% amid the lockdowns imposed in 2020.

It even goes on to say that ecommerce will account for around 6% of the total market (including pubs, bars, clubs, off licenses and supermarkets) within the next 3 years.

consumer drinking habits
Consumer drinking habits have been altered by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the growth of ecommerce sales

The role of bottle boxes and shippers

All of this adds up to mean that the role of ecommerce packaging – and bottle boxes in particular – has taken on ever more importance.

As the market begins to mature however, and brands look to gain competitive advantage over their rivals, packaging is one of the key weapons in helping to attract and retain customers.

As such, there are a number of considerations beyond transit packaging that must be taken into account when looking to source (or improve) your bottle boxes and drinks packaging.

These include:

  • Using the correct size / format
  • Which inserts (if any) to use
  • Material grade of your bottle packaging
  • Material appearance and / or colour of your boxes
  • Inclusion of branding
  • Additional instructions and information
  • Recyclability of your bottle packs
  • The sustainability of your boxes and overall operations

The rest of this guide provides further information on each of these key points, allowing you to leverage your bottle packaging to become a competitive advantage for your business.

01: Size / Format

How the wrong size boxes can cause numerous issues

It may sound obvious, but it is not uncommon for drinks businesses to be using cardboard bottle shippers which are a poor fit for their actual bottles.

Whilst the majority of wine and beer boxes fall within fairly standard size / shape parameters, the same cannot be said of most spirits. In fact, many manufacturers use unusually shaped bottles to provide differentiation, and in some cases even act as an extension of their branding.

The problems arise when standard sized bottle boxes are used to ship these bottles.

Packs that are too small do not allow for adequate protection to be included, potentially leading to damage. Boxes which are too large require excess void fill (or other inserts / materials) in order to prevent movement within the outer box (which can also cause damage). Over-sized boxes also make shipping more expensive, and has a negative environmental impact (with increased CO2 emissions due to less efficient shipping.

Besides the consideration for custom sized bottle boxes however, it is also important to select the correct formats too.

This means that your inventory has stock of both single bottle shippers and multi bottle boxes with dividers for shipping larger orders (and for applications such as wholesaling).

Get this first step right, and it can prevent various problems further down the line.

Bottle box sizes
Perhaps more so than packaging other goods, the size of your bottle boxes can have a significant impact on their performance

02: Bottle Box Inserts

Ensuring adequate protection for your bottles

Although the outer pack will absorb some of the stresses and strains experienced through the supply chain, it is crucial to recognise the role that suitable bottle pack inserts can play as well.

These can provide additional cushioning protection to absorb sock and impact. Virtually eliminating costly damage.

Saying that, they can also play an important role in the unboxing experience of your products. Premium corrugated inserts featuring branding, for example, will provide a much more premium feel than bubble wrap or other plastic options.

This point also ties in with ease of use / disposal for your customers too. Whilst a customer’s minimum expectation is that their orders will arrive intact, any inserts that are difficult to recycle can frustrate and annoy shoppers. It may even discourage them from shopping with you again.

Due to the sheer number of options, it is worth viewing this separate article covering the pros and cons of the differing insert options.

Bottle box inserts
Bottle box inserts play a key role in protecting your shipments

03: Material Grade

Selecting a material that is appropriate for your specific requirements

Whilst bottles and their contents can be both fragile and heavy (a relatively unusual combination), one of the great fallacies when selecting suitable packaging is that heavy duty grades of material are always required.

In fact, working with a suitable packaging designer (rather than purchasing off the shelf boxes) can allow for an optimum grade of material to be chosen. One that offers both good protection – which can be ascertained through both theoretical data and physical drop tests – and is cost effective.

Bottle box material options
The material that your bottle boxes are manufactured from has a direct impact on how well they perform in transit (as well as their appearance)

Many businesses actually discover that they can switch to a lighter weight material for their bottle boxes, without noticing any impact to protection levels.

However, the differences are noticed elsewhere. Most notable is the cost savings, with less material being used overall, minimised shipping costs (as the material is less bulky) and storage (again due to less bulk).

However, the importance of working with an established, experienced packaging designer for this cannot be stressed enough!

04: Material Colour

How colours and appearance can influence consumer behaviour

Besides the grade of material used for your ecommerce bottle packaging, it is surprising just how much the actual colour of the boxes can influence consumer behaviour and perception.

For example, for organic and / or environmentally focused brands, a brown kraft material is perceived as reflecting your eco credentials. Conversely, white boxes are typically viewed as a more premium option, potentially making them more suited to higher value products.

Of course, it is also possible to have your bottle boxes printed with all over colours to match your brand.  However, consideration should be given here as to whether to print the outside – which provides free advertising but also highlights what the contents are to would be thieves – or the inside to aid security but provide an improved unboxing experience.

For something seemingly simple, your choice of material can have a significant impact on brand perception. Not to mention the potential for repeat business.

05: Bottle Box Branding

Adding logos and consistent brand identity

Of course, going hand in hand with the colour of your boxes is how you incorporate your branding.

As mentioned previously, excessively branding the exterior of your packs – especially for high value wines and spirits – can alert potential thieves to the contents. It can also make consumers wary if the bottle is being purchased as a surprise gift, that the exterior branding could give away.

Branded bottle boxes
Not branding your bottle boxes is a missed opportunity

Alternatively, inside print means that you miss out on any free “advertising” through the supply chain, but does create a compelling and memorable unboxing experience.

The use of colour is also important, ensuring that any pantone references are accurately matched, and that any other graphical elements tie in with the material colour and your overall brand ethos. A good example is white and green inks being used in conjunction with brown kraft material to create a striking appearance that evokes an environmentally friendly aesthetic.

Consistency (across your packaging and other touch points – such as emails ecommerce websites, in store displays etc.) and good colour choice can really help to drive brand recall, customer loyalty, and repeat sales.

06: On Pack Instructions

Improving the usability of your bottle boxes

Separate to including printed branding on your bottle packs, it is also important to consider instructions and warning on your boxes.

The obvious example here is to include a “Fragile” warning, so that couriers and delivery drivers will (hopefully) treat the items with greater care. Other symbols highlighting how the boxes should be handled are also a good idea in the vast majority of cases (you can see a range of transit packaging symbols here).

Also growing in importance is the use of recycling symbols and logos, providing instructions to consumers on how they should go about recycling your packs. In fact, recent surveys have shown many consumers are confused as to how they should recycle specific items, and would make more effort to do so if there were clearer instructions.

Including info on recycling also typically helps to improve the perception of your brand.

transit packaging symbols
Adding simple icons and instructions to your bottle packs can play a surprisingly large role in protection during shipping

07: Bottle Box Recyclability

Helping your customers reduce their environmental impact

Leading on directly from the use of recycling logos on your bottle packaging, is the actual recyclability of your packs themselves.

Obviously using corrugated cardboard outer shippers means that your packaging can be easily recycled, as well as being potentially manufactured from recyclable material too.

However, the (potential) issues begin when using specific types of inserts.

Again, corrugated dividers, cradles and inserts are all easy to recycle, as are other options such as Flexi Hex. However, many of the plastics and foams used as bottle box inserts are not readily accepted in kerbside recycling schemes, and must be taken to supermarket collection points or local recycling centres. Both of which is a big barrier to consumers recycling them.

This can again seriously impact the perception of your brand, so caution should be exercised when considering which form of packaging is most suitable.

Recycling bottle packaging
Enabling easy recycling of your bottle packaging - including avoiding the use of plastic based inserts - can be a real plus point for consumers

08: Sustainability (FSC®)

A long-term commitment to the environment

And finally, the sustainability of your packaging should be considered.

Whilst many people see recyclability and sustainability as essentially the same thing, there are a number of crucial differences

For example, the use of materials from well managed sources – FSC® certified packaging being the most obvious example – is becoming a key consideration for many consumers.

Using sustainable material also allows you to add associated logos and branding (such as the FSC® logos) to your packaging, again helping with brand perception and repeat business. All this of course helps to ensure the environmental impact of your business is minimised as much as possible, too.

Summary

Factors to consider when sourcing bottle boxes

Getting your bottle boxes right can be a surprisingly complicated process.

This is why it often makes sense to work alongside a packaging designer / manufacturer. Doing so can allow you to source a fully tailored solution that will not only provide protection, but will also delight (and help to retain) your customers.

So, if you require any assistance with your bottle boxes – or any other form of ecommerce packaging – why not speak with one of the team at GWP. We’ll be happy to help you develop the perfect bottle packaging for your specific requirements and application.

Further Reading...

About the Author

David Mason, GWP Packaging

David Mason

Sales Director | GWP Packaging

David is Sales Director for GWP Packaging, having originally joined the company (then Great Western Packaging) back in 1990. [Read full bio…]

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