Case Study: Finding the Best Paper Mailer

Case Study: Finding the Best Paper Mailer

Posted By on May 10th 2024

Here at EcoEnclose, we are 100% committed to your sustainable packaging success because we will only achieve our vision of packaging circularity if your eco-packaging project is a win. But what does packaging success mean?

When you work with us, you get a packaging partner dedicated to your access across 5 key areas.

This is the EcoAlly Experience, delivered.

the ecoally experience

In this series, we explore different parts of the EcoAlly Experience through case studies to help you understand our work.

We keep the brands anonymous, allowing us to be more honest and explore the specifics of the challenges and solutions we provide. Doing so can provide a clearer picture of how we approach complex issues and work with brands like yours to find the best possible solutions.

How We Helped Brand X Find the Best Paper Mailer for Their Needs

Earth Month 2024's theme of Planet vs Plastic reflects the growing consumer and public sentiment that the world needs to change its relationship with plastic. Brands, particularly conscious brands serving eco-minded consumers, feel more pressure than ever to eliminate plastic across their packaging suite and supply chain.

For years, EcoEnclose has supported companies on their journey to plastic-free. This post provides a closer look at how we helped one such brand navigate this somewhat complex process. For confidentiality reasons, we'll refer to them as Brand X.

The Situation

Brand X is a 50 million dollar apparel brand that ships 5,000 - 7,000 weekly orders across the United States. Their leadership team issued a mandate to procure and transition the brand to plastic-free packaging by 2025.

The first step in this journey was to replace their existing poly mailers with paper mailers, as this shipping packaging was the first physical experience so many of their consumers had with their brand. They believed that swapping poly with paper in this unboxing experience would have the most substantial impact on customer perception of the brand and would build loyalty.

Recognizing the complexities of this project, they reached out to the EcoEnclose for solutions and guidance.

plastic-to-paper toolkit

Our Approach

EcoEnclose has developed a comprehensive Plastic-to-Paper Toolkit to support brands like X in their transition.

While the toolkit is ready for use by any brand, we know most people we work with are wearing many (many) hats and may not have the capacity to manage these moving pieces. So, in most situations, we partner with our EcoAlly brands to work through the decision-making and transition process with them.

The Process

We worked closely with Brand X to gain insights into their packaging needs, operational requirements, brand messaging, and sustainability goals. Key considerations included:

  • Packaging Contents: Brand X typically packages one or two soft goods per shipment, with t-shirts, pants, and jackets being the most common items.
  • Budget Constraints: While cost wasn't the primary driver, it focused on finding a cost-effective paper mailer that met their functional needs.
  • Supply Chain and Operations: Brand X works with three 3PLs across the USA, which cautioned that new packaging might affect shipping fees if packing and shipping times increased.
  • Branding and Unboxing Experience: The marketing team envisioned a simpler, earthier design that emphasized the natural, renewable, and curbside-recyclable nature of the new paper packaging.
  • Sustainability Priorities: Sustainability was important to the leadership team but wasn't a core driver of the brand's ethos. They were open to learning more about complex sustainability topics.
  • Purchasing and Cash Flow: Brand X typically purchases 100,000 mailers at a time, but they were open to reconsidering this volume and cadence based on the cash outlay required for paper mailers.

The Solution

We guided Brand X through our detailed plastic-to-paper transition process and found that the following steps became most critical for them:

  • Recycled Content vs. Virgin Inputs: We helped Brand X learn about the environmental impact of different paper types and decide to prioritize recycled content and post-consumer waste.
  • Paper Mailer Landscape: We helped Brand X understand the strengths and weaknesses of various mailer structures (flat vs. gusseted, standup bottom vs. fold over bottom, dual layer vs. single layer), cost, and other factors.
  • Testing and Selecting: Brand X tested three paper mailer options: the Kraft Mailer, the Apparel Mailer, and a custom 50% recycled content, standup bottom gusset mailer.

kraft mailer

The Decision

Brand X ultimately chose the Kraft Mailer for its low cost, high recycled content, and ability to meet its functional needs. It was printed with black algae ink, symbolizing its commitment to sustainability. It opted for two sizes—one for single-unit orders and a larger, gusseted option for orders containing two or three units.

To balance cost efficiency and cash flow management, Brand X orders 75,000 mailers at a time but has committed to a full year's volume.

The Outcome

Brand X successfully transitioned to plastic-free packaging, meeting its operational goals, budget needs, and desired customer experience.

Their 3PLs reported that the mailers did not lead to excess packaging time, so no additional fulfillment fees were incurred. During the first week of working with these mailers, their 3PL did report some issues with mailer and label adhesion. After a brief call with the EcoEnclose team, the 3 PM realized that slightly extra pressure was required to ensure a strong, tamper-evident bond when working with paper (as compared to poly mailers). Brand X noted that the mailers were sometimes delivered with small punctures or tears; however, they did not see a measurable increase in product damage or return rates.

Additionally, customers anecdotally shared that they were pleased by the switch to recycled paper mailers and the ease with which they could be recycled. Thus far, the transition has been successful for Brand X, and it now works with EcoEnclose on replacements for single-use plastic elsewhere in their business. We'll continue regular Kraft Mailer reviews with Brand X, ensuring we identify and address any operational or functional issues that may continue to arise as quickly as possible.

If your brand is undergoing a plastic-to-paper transition or any seemingly complex sustainable packaging initiative, we'd love to work with you! Every time we help a forward-thinking brand make a positive step forward in its eco-packaging journey; we move one step closer to our own vision of packaging circularity.