Toy packaging tarnishes sparkle within

How can the toy trade be smarter with packaging product? Ian Bates from The Less Packaging Company explains.
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With Easter and summer school holidays upon us, parents will not only be faced with more expense but also vast quantities of excess toy packaging, as they seek ways of entertaining their children on long journeys.

Toy packaging is designed to be fit for purpose both as a vehicle to transport the product, generally from far afield, and then to compete in an extremely competitive retail marketplace.

There’s nothing sustainable about a product that doesn’t sell. Consumer packaging has to create appeal, but toy packaging has to stimulate delight and excitement to reflect what’s inside. The challenge is to reduce the volume of packaging without diminishing the experience of seeing, choosing, trying (in some cases), receiving, anticipating and opening.

Packaging has to fulfil a complex mix of requirements for retailers, brand owners and consumers. To satisfy these, a high level of technical design and commercial knowledge is required to deliver best practice. The result is that consumers walking around a toy store today will see little obvious difference between the packs available now and those on the shelves two years ago.

From a design perspective, the real question is whether a brand owner or retailer wants to risk reducing the size of their pack when it’s sitting next to a rival product on the shelf. Until there’s more clarity around the amount of packaging manufacturers should be using for protective purposes versus how much they actually use for competitive advantage, parental pressure will still have a lot of sway.

Some manufacturers are making improvements, but there’s a great deal more that could be done.

This is where a new packaging philosophy comes into play. A unique design process and ethos called ‘pre-cycling’ uses foresight not hindsight to remove waste. Pre-cycling uses sustainable materials, where possible, which can be easily recycled everywhere, and packs designed to optimise board usage and valuable space though the supply chain.

Our project with Tesco’s Carousel toys, for example, resulted in an average reduction of 15 per cent in weight and five per cent cube (box packaging), whilst reducing unpacking times to around 45 seconds.

In the UK alone, we send between £350-400m of recovered packaging recycle-ate to landfill (Source: Valpak).

Pre-cycling offers the answer to a packaging dilemma faced by toy manufacturers, retailers and distributors – that of satisfying commercial, safety and environmental needs. Pre-cycling offers a way of designing packaging that’s eye-catching, minimal, safe, secure, frustration-free, sustainable and recyclable.

Perhaps this Christmas we’ll see more sparkle and less packaging on shelf.

About the author

Ian Bates is a Partner for The Less Packaging Company. Call 01279 874646, visit the website at or email

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