How Effective is Environmentally-Friendly Packaging for Your Brand? Top Reasons to Get into it Today

sustainable packaging

Yes, you probably have a great product, even if you do say so yourself. You’ve already received a lot of great comments about your product’s quality, efficiency, and so on. But at the end of the day, no matter how brilliant your product is, there’s still something to be said about how it is packaged. The right packaging is crucial if you really want your product to stand out. So how do you achieve this? One of your best options is to go for environmentally-friendly packaging. Now the big question is, why should you do it, and how effective is environmentally-friendly packaging for your brand? Here are some top reasons to get into it today.

Obviously, for the good of the environment

If you don’t already know, environmentally-friendly packaging is, as its name implies, simply better for the environment overall. Ecologically-friendly packaging is often comprised of materials which are recycled, which results in a reduction of the use of natural resources. Furthermore, if you opt for environmentally-friendly packaging, the process of manufacturing itself is usually more practical and efficient, thus reducing the use of natural resources even further. The materials used are naturally bio-degradable as well, and there is also the trend of using plant-based chemicals, such as ink made from soy, which has a lower level of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which are substances that can cause environmental harm.

Enhanced versatility

Contrary to what some people may think, environmentally-friendly packaging is actually amazingly versatile, which means that it can be used for virtually any kind of product you can imagine. It’s often used for food items such as cakes and pastries, meat, vegetables, and non-food items such as cosmetics and even electronic gadgets and other devices.

Easier to throw away

Apart from having a lower impact on the environment, environmentally-friendly packaging tends to be easier to throw away or dispose of as well. This is because, simply put, it can easily be recycled or composted. If you have customers who have provisions for composting, this means that they can just put it in the facility and the packaging can be used again as plant fertiliser. Even if your customers don’t have composting provisions, they can just as easily bury the packaging in their gardens with the sure knowledge that it will be able to biodegrade over time.

Say goodbye to plastic

We all know how harmful plastic can be to our animals, especially to the animals of the sea. If you opt for traditional films or clamshell type packaging, this is bound to contain a quantity of plastic that has been proven to contribute to environmental degradation as well as global warming. What’s more, producing plastics (using petrochemicals) requires a huge amount of energy, and this energy is, more often than not, non-sustainable. Besides, doesn’t it feel good to know that you’re doing your own bit when it comes to keeping the environment as it is, and making sure animals and other life forms are safe from the dangerous effects of plastics?

At the end of the day, environmentally-friendly packaging is, indeed, the way to go if you want your brand to be noticed, if you want your image to be enhanced, and if you want to do your part in protecting our precious natural resources.

image courtesy of Lacey Williams on Unsplash


​What You Really Need to Know about Labelling and Packaging Organic Food

We all know how important the right packaging is when it comes to food products, home items, cleaning supplies, clothing, and so much more. But certain items require more deliberate and carefully-thought-out packaging than most. Organic food, for instance, needs to be labelled and packaged according to various regulations and stipulations, and if this isn’t done in the correct manner, all your efforts at actually growing and developing the product may come to naught. Here, then, is what you really need to know about labelling and packaging organic food.
As a retailer, you can’t just label something ‘organic’ to attract consumers to purchase your product. Certain regulations have to be met, and the government is quite clear on this as well.

Labelling organic products

A product can only be labelled ‘organic’ if 95 percent of its ingredients are organic – in other words, farm-bred and grown and all-natural. You can also label a product ‘organic’ if you sell your products directly to the customers in your own shop. According to EU regulations, your product should not contain any genetically-modified organisms or derived products.

But these are just the tip of the iceberg. You need to have certified organic products first, and this can only happen with an assessment from one of the several organic certification bodies in the UK. These organisations include the following:

  • Organic Famers & Growers Association
  • Organic Food Federation
  • Biodynamic Agricultural Association
  • Soil Association Certification Ltd
  • Organic Trust Limited
  • Quality Welsh Food Certification Ltd
  • Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association
  • Global Trust Certification Ltd
  • OF & G (Scotland) Ltd

You must approach any one of these bodies and have your product(s) certified by them first before you can label your products ‘organic’. The process can be made easier if you approach the organisation which is nearest to you. For instance, if you are located in Scotland, you can have your products certified by OF & G (Scotland) Ltd, and if you are in Ireland, you can ask for certification from the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association, and so on.

Once you have been certified

Once you have received your certification and have been able to label your products as organic, you will have to follow some strict and stringent guidelines as well in order to maintain your label and packaging. You will also have to keep accurate, methodical, and highly-detailed records of your process of production. Aside from this, you will have to be ready to undergo annual as well as random checks and inspections.

Since July of 2010, businesses that produce organic food which is packaged have had to use a specially-designed organic logo for the EU. This, however, is not required for companies producing organic food which are not part of the EU. As of now, with the exit of Britain from the EU, the regulations have still not been updated, although there are some indications that the regulations and legislations for labelling and packaging organic food may be affected as well. But at the moment, producers will still have to use the EU logo for organic food.

How to create a simple valentines origami heart.

This valentines, we thought we’d show you how to create a simple yet effective origami valentines heart which can be used as a decoration or inserted into your gift packaging or to contain a personal message.

A thoughtful but simple gesture…

Step One

Take a piece of A4 paper – gift wrapping works well, but can be any nice material or coloured paper.


Step Two

Fold the top 2 corners down diagonally to create a cross shape.


Step Three

Bring the top down with the centre of the cross making a point, by tucking the sides in and folding flat with your fingers to make a triangle.

Step Four

With the triangle facing upwards, bring the front flaps forward and up to make a diamond shape.


Step Five

Fold the sides inwards so that they meet in the middle.


Step Six

Turn the part over and fold the bottom upwards to meet the bottom of the triangle.

Step Seven

Fold the front half of the triangle over the bottom flap.


Step Eight

Fold the bottom left and right corners upwards and tuck between the flaps in the triangle you just folded down.

Step Nine

Finally, fold the remaining top two triangles downwards at an angle to make the top of the heart. The tips of these last triangles can be tucked under the flap of the middle triangle.


The history of Packaging Design in Redditch, Worcestershire

I grew up in Redditch and have returned here to set up Pactivate due to the town’s unique and convenient location within the midlands. The connections here are great along with the local companies that we work closely with to ensure that our customers’ packaging meets the demands placed upon it within the supply chain.

Abel Morralls Trade Mark Burnished

Redditch is famous for a wide range of light industry and since the early 18th century has been shipping products around the world. Famous for needles, fish hooks and spring products, the most well known company was Abel Morrall Limited who’s ‘Clive Works’ site inspired product categories due to it’s prominence and reputation for quality.

Abel Morrall was founded in 1785 and became publicly listed in 1898. Their brands included Aero knitting pins, Flora McDonald Sewing needles along with a range of haberdashery smallwares and hypodermic needles.

Conveniently located on the main Redditch to Birmingham rail line, the Clive Works site has left a mark on the town with street names such as Clive Road and a dedicated exhibition within the forge mill needle museum.

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The end of the Abel Morrall brand came when it was amalgamated with a Glaswegian firm in 1984.

As well as the interesting history of some of these brands, the mark left has been in the form of a wide range of technology and packaging related services. From CAD Software and machinery companies such as Barco Kongsberg who are now part of Esko Graphics, and Lasercomb Dies (creating specialist tooling for the industry) and Bobst group (who manufacture packaging machinery) along with a wide array of printing and print finishing services in the area well known within the industry.

We’re proud to be continuing this heritage and to service the packaging needs of the west midlands and Worcestershire and would love to hear from you if you have any similar interests or can add to this interesting story.

The Shape of Packaging to Come

As designers, we’re constantly looking to the future to predict the next trends and come up with that inspiration for the newest iconic packaging range. Fashion comes and goes and we see this in the use of materials and processes across certain industries.

Each time a new process or application is developed such as cold foil printing or laser cut card, manufacturers battle to sell the feature to marketers and agencies who then find ways to utilise the technique in their product packaging. Soon, however, the trend becomes stale as the market place becomes flooded and marketers struggle for their message to stand out from the noise. This continuing cycle is a function of speed to market and a result of the challenges that brand owners face in a highly competitive environment.

Sometimes it is easy to reach straight for the new technology as an easy route to competitiveness or differentiation, but I would argue that a well thought out pared down approach to design is much more likely to achieve a considered and cohesive result that not only catches the eye but has the added emotional connection that can be so difficult to achieve with a brand.

For me the future of the industry is not a new material or process but the way we apply design and branding to the packaging. There are lots of new technologies and systems for managing unique customer experiences such as personalization and highly targeted packaging solutions through to recording of usage and data capture, but sometimes these technologies can miss important intangible connections which help us connect with the packaging. By getting back to basics and starting with a fresh clean piece of paper, we can not only help redefine the message, but reintroduce new exciting ways that your consumer can interact with your product.

Before starting with a packaging project we like to understand the values of the company as well as the usage and application of the product so that we can help to apply those messages to each element of the container.

Our design process has been formed out of a number of years’ refining and helps us to answer the intrinsic questions about the audience and key messages that your brand is trying to deliver. With this approach, we start from the ground up applying features, materials and processes that not only look great, but work together and are achievable in a real world scenario.

This way, not only can we help your product to catch the eye, but also to hold attention through the lifecycle of the customer experience to ensure that they come back next time.

Hot Drinks Chart

When we’re looking for design inspiration for the next packaging project, it’s important that we’re well fuelled with a cup of warm beverage. We’re a little fussy here, so it’s important that the brew is just right for our tastes.

For this reason, we’ve put together a handy colour chart to help make sure we get it right. Please feel free to plagiarise!

Hot Drink Colour Guide _lr

Hot Drink Colour Guide img.png



Kanye West Album Packaging

Kanye West’s new album is set to be the highest performing ‘download only’ album yet, though it seems it hasn’t been without difficulty, having stated that he’d never release on apple iTunes, it appeared 6 weeks later.

“the Yeezus album packaging was an open casket to CDs r.i.p” – Kanye West March 8th Via Twitter

I personally like CD albums and the packaging design is just one reason. And it appears I’m not alone; a shared rebellion against digital media has led to recent growth in Vinyl sales. Even cassettes are making an unlikely (and probably not long lasting) come back. (it’s worth noting that the vinyl growth, while faster than in over a decade, seems to be gift and fan purchase led as it’s reported that less than 20% of new vinyl records are ever played). But still, it gives me a bit of comfort to know that the world of media packaging is extant.

Audio artwork has always been a fascination for me – primarily because the nature of music means that artwork needs to be original while reflecting a range of common emotions and messages along with a recognition of the artist.

Now admittedly I’m not exactly his target audience, but I am starting to wonder whether Kanye West’s album artwork is reflective of his grip on reality. Or perhaps it’s a reflection of the modern need to create controversy or shock in order to cut through the noise of mass media.

The college Drop Out – Feb 2004


Late Registration – Aug 2005


Graduation – Sept 2007


808s and Heartbreak – Nov 2008


My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Nov 2010

kanye-album-cover- dark twisted fantasy

Watch The Throne – Aug 2011


Yeezus – June 2013

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The Life of Pablo  – Feb 2016



New Indestructible PLA material

Due to the growth in shipped product we were looking for a way to create primary retail packaging which had a greater longevity and was able to withstand a greater amount of impact and handling throughout the product’s journey.

Having experimented with a range of design types and materials, we tested a laminating process using layers of PLA (potato starch) material. The result surprised even us.

We inadvertently created a ‘shape memory polymer’ which is not only more durable than standard materials, it has such a high memory that even under a high impact crush, the material can bounce back to its original state.

Check out our amazing video here:

As you can see the standard tuck end carton design requires no heat application, and can be printed using standard inks (we’ve used our digital process here with foil effect and embossing).

In production, the creases would have to use special die tooling – but we have developed a system for this too.

Key Features

  • Improved durability over time and in transit
  • Environmentally sustainable PLA
  • Printable using litho, flexo and digital inks (treated version)
  • Die cutting and creasing possible (using modified cutting formes)
  • Material can be manufactured in thicknesses from 250 up to 625microns
  • A metalized top layer is also available


**** Update 01/04/16 @ 12:00 ****
The truth is, we’ve been a bit sneaky and jumped on the back of the April Fools bandwagon, but we’d love to hear from you – especially if you have any ideas of ‘how we did it’
Crushed Carton
Please feel free to comment below – or if we can help you solve a packaging design problem please contact us.

Bad Packaging – 10 Things companies get wrong

You don’t have to search too hard to find someone on twitter ranting about a poorly received parcel. The world of things is still as prevalent now as it was before the internet, in fact packaging is now more important due to the myriad ways it gets to the end user.

I thought I’d list a few don’ts in order to help my fellow packaging enthusiasts!

Oversized shipping containers

oversized box

Companies rant about their environmental credentials, but 9 times out of 10 the impact of shipping outstrips any tiny saving on material usage in the primary packaging. This is why the outer shipping container is even more important. Yes it should be sufficient to protect the product but a massive box with a tiny object rattling about in it means wasted lorry space, and in fact less protection. The winner of this category has to be Amazon, but to be fair, they ship a lot of different things and there can’t always be a box the right size. It still has to be said, however, that this could be managed much better.

Poorly Considered Photography

hospital food

People take on average 7 seconds to make a decision. Product imagery needs to be appealing, especially when it’s a ready meal for example – a brightly coloured food item is much more likely to appeal than a grey soup – regardless of what colour the product is in real life!

Poor Choice in Materials

spilt biscuits

I have a bit of a sweet tooth, and my least favourite occurrence is when I’ve just opened a bag of sweets just for it to split down the side leading to a colourful but disappointing carpet of confectionery. The most annoying thing about this is that it’s easily solvable by mixing the correct material with a good opening device or different sealing mechanism.

Material choices can have a variety of impacts from construction and print quality right through to shipping strength and performance. Choices that work both to complement the brand and protect the product effectively can make a huge difference to the customer experience.

Difficult Opening

wrap rage

Whether it’s a film lid which tears into a million pieces but must be removed before cooking, or a vac-formed blister with welded edges that is practically impenetrable, the opening experience is really important. A lot of companies design their product to get to the shelf. But the way a customer feels about the product they have just bought can affect their brand loyalty. In the modern age of social media, the fan video of ‘wow look what I got’ is the holy grail – don’t let it be ‘I couldn’t even open it so I’m sending it back!’

Terrible Spelling & Translation

terrible spelling

The problems with spelling in Grammar can have obvious connotations and miss-spelt products are a common result of international markets. Aside from hilarious consequences, sloppy mistakes also can have an impact on the feeling of quality and reliability. If your brand gets associated with a cheap import in the customer’s eyes, it can affect how much they’d be willing to pay.

Un-researched Market Territory

wrong market

33% of consumers make buying decisions based on the packaging alone – so it’s important to get it right. Different regions can have widely different social and historical beliefs to our own, and a brand identity that has a warm fuzzy feeling in our own territory may in fact have a repellent effect in another.

Wrong Audience

scary baby

According to a study by the university of Portsmouth in February this year, arthritis, deteriorating eyesight and physical strengths made older consumers more at risk of experiencing “vulnerability” when buying packaged goods. Poorly considered openings and instructions can not only lead to fewer sales, they can actually have a negative impact on the emotional attachment that a consumer would link to a brand.

Unchecked Artwork

not checked

For multi-territory products when you have a big team translating across 24 languages, there are many things that can go wrong, but having a stable set of checking and approval procedures is critical. By automating too much you can in fact lead to worse decisions – the human ‘common sense’ factor is highly under-utilised, especially in large organisations with inexperienced staff.

Poor use of fonts

terrible font

It’s easy to see what went wrong here, but legibility as funny as this example is, can be really important. Miss-communication of the product can make a huge difference to the longevity of the brand.

A disjointed approach


My final note is all too common. Packaging as a tangible item is about all the above elements. Too often designers and companies produce concepts in a staged, staggered approach – think about the colours and artwork, then add some materials, then work out what shape it needs to be. For me this is a backwards approach. The product is the most important thing, then work outwards towards the packaging and consider all elements together. This way, well thought out structure and material choices can meet quality artwork that complement each another to get that warm fuzzy feeling you’re looking for.



The Silent Salesman

For almost all products, packaging is the first point of contact between the product and the end consumer. Packaging serves a number of functions and some would argue that primary packaging can be part of the product or a product extension. Toothpaste as a key example would be a very different offering without a tube.

With this in mind, it’s really important to give your packaging a chance. Packaging as a ‘silent salesman’ not only can help communicate the benefits of the product, it can also help the customer with product usage, it can improve the interactive experience through which your customer travels and help to target your product towards certain types of consumer.

When presenting your company to a prospective audience, it is important to consider your message and key principles. It is equally important, therefore, to ensure that your packaging decisions fall in to line with these messages. For example, a company who has a focus on green credentials, should in turn use ethically sourced packaging materials.

As a key link to your audience, all packaging design should be considered in a way that communicates your important messages in a clear and intelligent way.