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Retail gift set packaging – should you consider foam this Christmas?

Ian Heskins: Last Updated 15th February 2024
Posted In: Guides and Advice | Increase Sales xx 31628

Enhance your Christmas gift packs

Make your festive retail packaging and gift sets stand out with foam inserts

Due to perceptions of cost and sustainability, businesses often neglect to consider foam when creating their retail gift set packaging. However, more eco-friendly and recycled materials are becoming available. Plus, with the growing importance of adding value during crucial sales periods (such as Christmas), retail foam inserts are increasingly used for this application.

And whilst Amazon is now the de facto leader for where shoppers start their Christmas gift shopping (with 61% of consumers starting their search there), the much-maligned high street still sees almost the same number (30%) visit physical stores.

These figures mean that the on-shelf appearance of your retail gift set packaging is as crucial as ever. But can using presentation foam inserts help give your brand a unique appearance? Or are other materials better for displaying your products within festive gift packs?

This guide provides the following:

  • An overview of the UK Christmas gift set market.
  • The five main objections to using gift foam and how you can overcome them.
  • Seven key advantages of foam packaging inserts.
  • How the use of foam can fit with your brand and existing packaging.



The Christmas gift market in the UK

As highlighted at the very beginning of this article, Christmas is a period of significant spending by UK consumers.

Even with the cost of living crisis – with almost a third of the UK population indicating they are likely to cut back on spending this Christmas – total spending in the last three months of the year is expected to be around £110 billion.

A young lady holding retail gift packaging
Spending on gifts is likely to be lower in 2022 than the £26.5 billion spent in the UK last year.

Even considering inflation and pressures on household finances, the likelihood is that individuals in the UK will spend approximately £366 on average when purchasing gifts for family, friends, and colleagues.

Special edition and seasonal gift sets – everything from personal hygiene to food, gardening to alcohol, toys, and even various homewares – are a significant driver of this activity (you can see how this affects Christmas packaging in these facts).

Not just for Christmas

Before considering why foam gift pack inserts could be worth considering for your festive packaging, retailers and businesses should note that gift-giving is not limited to Christmas.

Birthdays, Mother’s Day, and Easter represent as much as 39% of the UK’s spend on gifting.

These figures show that you can potentially use any foam gift packaging you develop at other points throughout the retail calendar (depending on your market and products).

Retail gift packs with foam

Overcoming the five main objections to the use of foam in gift packaging

With a business’ retail packaging critical during the highly competitive Christmas shopping season, any missteps can result in lost sales, harm brand equity, and even lead to consumer backlash (in extreme cases).

These risks are why many stick with the tried and trusted seasonal packaging formats.

But this can be an opportunity for other products and brands to do something different and stand out amidst all the noise. This differentiation could be particularly important in a market that is even more competitive due to decreasing consumer activity.

And whilst foam inserts can help with this, businesses typically have five main objections when considering them.

Five objections to foam inserts

In no particular order, the typical objections to foam gift packaging are as follows:

  • Foam is not environmentally friendly.
  • Foam can’t carry branding.
  • Foam packaging is expensive.
  • Foam is not available in brand colours.
  • The material is not suitable for specific products or markets.

But there are strong arguments against these various issues.

Foam is not environmentally friendly

There has (rightly) been an increase in consumers who are more concerned than ever regarding the sustainability of their packaging. This feeling has given rise to a backlash against Christmas packaging waste and seen an increase in solutions such as FSC® packaging options.

And it is undeniable – most foam is plastic-based and not as easy to recycle as paper-based products.

But foam can be recycled, with more and more specialist centres becoming available across the UK. Foam can also help prevent damage in transit, minimising the volume of broken products sent to landfills.

It is now also possible to source recycled and recyclable foam materials for your Christmas packaging. For example, the new wood-based foam, Fibrease, is recyclable in kerbside collections alongside cardboard.

Retail foam packaging
Foam is becoming easier to recycle, with many recycled grades now available.

Foam is not available in brand colours

Grabbing attention is obviously hugely important in retail markets. This consideration is why Christmas gift packaging is a mixture of seasonal colours, bright hues, and eye-catching designs – something that often extends to the inserts inside the gift packs.

However, whilst many believe packaging foam is only available in black or white, Plastazote is available in many colours. And whilst it is not possible to match specific Pantone or other colour references, the foam can be layered to create eye-catching and visually unique designs.

Foam can’t carry branding

Similarly to the above, many businesses cite the fact that foam is relatively boring in appearance, even with the excellent surface finishes it can provide.

Another criticism is businesses cannot add their branding. But this is incorrect.

Using advanced laser etching techniques, your gift box foam can include logos, branding, slogans, instructions, and detailed graphics.

A foam insert with laser etched branding
Foam can be branded using laser etching techniques and is available in various colours.

Foam inserts are expensive

To be completely honest, foam is typically more expensive than card or corrugated inserts.

However, as there are no minimum order quantities (MOQs) for short runs, foam can often be the lower-cost option (as you do not need to purchase a considerable amount, only precisely what you need).

It is also ideally suited to high-end products or limited-edition gift sets that require a more luxurious feel and appearance. It can provide an air of quality and uniqueness that paper-based inserts cannot.

Foam is not suitable for my products

The final objection to foam inserts doesn’t make much sense. If your business sells anything but the most low-cost items (or those which are incredibly durable to start with), then foam can be a great option to present them.

If you are considering festive retail packaging or offering items in a gift set, then foam is definitely a great way to present them.

Foam gift set packaging
You can use foam to enhance almost any gift set or promotional pack.

Benefits of foam gift packaging

Seven additional benefits of using foam in your festive gift packaging

However, answering these five objections to foam gift pack inserts only tells part of the story. There are, in fact, several other significant advantages that you can benefit from by using Plastazote or other foam inserts for your Christmas packaging.

Seven benefits of retail gift set foam

So, without further ado, the additional advantages you can expect to see from using luxury retail foam in your festive retail gift sets include the following:

  • Protection for products.
  • Minimise returns and associated costs.
  • Precisely tailored to your items.
  • You can add foam to almost any packaging.
  • Provides genuine differentiation from your competitors.
  • Adds value (and leads to retention of packs).
  • Offers an excellent appearance.

Protects products

The first point here is arguably the most important. Put simply, foam inserts offer the highest levels of protection for your products.

This factor includes protection from impact, vibration and mishandling on the way to the retail outlets. It extends, however, to when consumers take them home or to their family’s or friends’ houses.

Besides this, foam protects against surface marring, blemishes, and scratching. This additional protection can be significant for high-end luxury products (such as fragrances). Foam outperforms corrugated cardboard and similar materials here, which can be surprisingly abrasive (although a coating – Nomar – can somewhat alleviate this).

Foam minimises returns and associated costs

But besides protecting products, presentation foam also helps reduce costs to your business. You can achieve these cost savings by reducing product returns due to transit damage (even just aesthetically) during shipping.

Beyond this, minimising returns also helps foster customer loyalty (your brand is perceived as reliable and of higher quality) and can help to drive repeat business (aiding future sales).

Precisely tailored to your items

Unlike cardboard cradles and similar inserts, you can choose to have foam inserts tailored precisely to your products.

And whilst arguably the main benefit of this is eliminating damage, it also ensures that your retail gift packs appear of the highest quality. Again, this can be critical for high-end and luxury brands that must convey a sense of the highest quality.

This perception of luxury is also particularly important during economic hardship – consumers may buy fewer items but spend on higher quality for the few they purchase. The “lipstick effect” – where consumers purchase small luxuries rather than big ticket items – can also come into play.

Tailored foam packaging
You can ask for your foam inserts to be precisely tailored to the contours of your products.

Provides differentiation from competitors

It is unlikely that many of your competitors are using foam inserts for their Christmas gift packaging. It may be because of the objections listed above. It may simply be because they aren’t aware of it.

Whatever the reason, if you are the only brand using foam packaging inserts, your gift packs instantly stand out from your competitors. This increased visual differentiation could help drive awareness and sales of your products.

Foam can be added to almost any packaging

Foam inserts are also versatile in that you can add them to almost any form of packaging.

Foam works well with the standard solid board and corrugated cardboard packs you are likely to see in typical retail environments. However, foam can be added to lightweight carry cases (think tools, sets of products and DIY items), clear plastic boxes, and even retail Correx® packaging.

This versatility also makes foam useful for brand consistency if, for example, you sell products in different packaging.

Gift set foam insert
Foam can be added to almost any packaging, enhancing its perceived value.

Adds value (and leads to retention of packs)

Another benefit of including foam in your retail gift packaging is that it adds value to the end consumer.

Effectively, the gift recipient is much more likely to retain the packaging to store the products on an ongoing basis.

The two benefits (to your business) of this are that firstly it leads to a higher perceived value of your products – increasing the price consumers are willing to pay – and secondly provides ongoing brand awareness as your box remains in the individual’s home.

Excellent appearance

And finally, foam can provide a truly unique and high-class appearance.

The aesthetic quality of foam makes it perfect for higher-end and expensive products, but it also works well in complementing a vast range of products.

In short, it is perfect for retail gift set packaging.

Foam is suited to packaging high-end products such as fragrances. Please note the image is provided by


Retail gift set packaging – should you consider using foam this Christmas?

The answer should be a resounding yes.

Whilst foam is not the right choice for all markets and products, it can provide your brand with a real point of difference, help you to exceed your customers’ expectations, and add value to the retail gift set packaging and products you sell.

If you are still determining whether gift pack foam could work for your business, what volume you would need and the various options, please get in touch with a member of the GWP team to discuss your exact requirements.

Further reading

About the Author

Ian Heskins

Ian Heskins

Business Development Director | GWP Group

Ian is one of GWP’s founding directors, using his broad knowledge acquired over more than 30 years to oversee new business strategy. [Read full bio]

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