At NetRush, we have a saying:

Packaging is a big deal.

This “big deal” is the brainchild of Colby Grantz, NetRush Packaging Manager. From supply chain optimization to end-consumer experience, packaging plays a huge role for brands and retailers alike.

 

In 2014, NetRush introduced our first branded packaging option that complied with Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging (FFP) standards. We did this in an easy-to-recycle branded package, which connected customers with brands by highlighting the role that supply chain operations plays in e-commerce customer experience.

Colby reflected on NetRush’s first branded packaging. “We started with a MegaFood FFP box, which I helped develop and design. At first we didn’t think about it as much, but our main focus today is on customer experience.”

To Colby, packaging is not one-size-fits-all. “It has to match the consistency and values of a brand. Like any other branded collateral, packaging is a chance to connect with people.” Because packaging is the first physical experience a customer has with a product, it’s often a buyer’s introduction to a brand. “So, ENO would be completely different than Nordic Naturals. You have to know the brand’s consumer base. I really enjoy diving in and finding out all those details.” These details, according to Colby, go well beyond imagery and brand message. “The materials used should also reflect the brand. For example, we’re incorporating more and more sustainable materials, which is very important to certain brands, and subsequently, their customers.”

2017 MegaFood Branded Box

 

The current MegaFood branded box. Each box includes brand-specific imagery and messaging.

 

With innovative and sustainable packaging comes challenges. “There are a lot of new materials and technologies that are out there,” Colby says. “They’re not always very accessible on a smaller scale. Some of them, you have to be producing millions for it to even be a consideration. And there are many different materials that are consistently used for sustainable packaging, but they don’t always go together.

Today, packaging for most products is optimized for supermarket shelves and dominated by maximizing shelf space to get customer attention. Moving toward flat packaging designed specifically for e-commerce, such as pouches, would support sustainability efforts and be cost-effective in the long run.

 

And as far as supply chain goes? “Going flatter would hopefully eliminate dunnage, so we’re not shipping air, basically. This will help maximize cube space.” Slimming down and maximizing space can significantly reduce the carbon emissions from shipping a product, as well at cut costs.

Colby says he’s always thinking about new ways to innovate and enhance NetRush packaging. “I remember reading an article about Japan a couple years ago. They were trying to put watermelons into a store, and they ended up growing them in these plastic cubes, so they grew into squares and could be stacked. I love seeing little things like that; seeing how can you think differently to maximize cube space and change the supply chain.”

Cube space isn’t the only way that Colby has improved upon the standard brown shipping box. “I love to design and create things. The structural part of things, I really love. To come up with ideas that nobody else has, working with our designers, and bringing concepts to life is a lot of fun.

2017 Crown Pro Branded Box

 

The current Crown Pro branded box. Utilizing a smaller size, this box is able to retain brand image and messaging while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions and increasing supply chain efficiency.

 

Colby recently designed a poppable cardboard display for ENO that could be incorporated into each box, depicting a person sitting in a hammock between two trees. Further promoting the brand’s image, ENO’s signature eagle is seen perched atop a tree. “These little displays cost a bit extra to put in. But I think the value to the brand, as well as the customer, is much more than the cost.”

ENO Cardboard Display

After Assembly

When not thinking about packaging, Colby says he likes to work on other structural projects. “I like remodeling, which sounds like a lot of work. And it usually is a lot of work.” Whether it’s rebuilding his mantel out of upcycled fir or completely reroofing, relandscaping, and redoing the floors in his house, Colby seems to keep pretty busy. And while this may seem much more difficult than designing boxes, he claims that “Rebuilding a house isn’t any harder than making packaging.” Why not? “A house is a big project, but you finish it, and for the most part it’s done. But with packaging, it has to be right the first time. If your structure’s off, and you make 200,000 units in a year, it’s not gonna end well.”

Colby talks a lot about experimenting, always with a purpose in mind. “There’s one box design we’ve been working on that doesn’t use any glue, and folds together and locks in place. You open it up and there’s more real estate to put more brand story and imagery. That’s really exciting.” He can go on and on about different types of corrugated board, cold storage boxes, and hemp-based adhesives, but he’s no packaging elitist. What it all boils down to, he says, “I like working on big projects, I like working on small projects, I like it all.”

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