WHAT IF your manufacturing business could help address the urgent need to reduce single-use plastic, limit the carbon footprint of your logistics and move towards direct-to-consumer sales all at the same time. It sounds more utopian than practical solution finding, but we know manufacturers are more than just adept at adapting to urgent needs - they’re also perfectly placed to be vertically integrated, having access like no other to the sacred factory-door price (FOB).
The commercial and household detergent business is dominated in Britain by some colossal household names, whose marketing departments invest millions making sure you can recall their brand first when you walk down the supermarket aisles looking for washing power, capsules or liquid, (depending on your choice of what they call ‘product delivery’). But we all wonder what the relative cost is of the often highly sophisticated, non-drip, easy-to-pour or dissolvable bubble system that carries the product from factory to your kitchen at home. These fancy packaging systems seem more valuable sometimes than the liquid they carry! But most of course have a single use – seems very wasteful.
Made in Britain member Ideal manufacturing MD Phillip Kalli has had a growing concern about the burden of unnecessary bulk and individual packaging in his business for some years. It was the media attention in 2018 focused on plastic in the sea affecting everything in the marine environment that was THE tipping point. It increased his sense of urgency about getting a business model set up that would start to solve this existential crisis for ‘chuckaway’ plastic containers.
“We have always wanted to make our products available to end users, direct from the factory, moving a proportion of the business over to a vertically integrated model, mainly in response to many customer requests to buy directly from us in smaller quantities.”
The Ideal solution
Phillip and the product development team at Ideal have partnered with a start-up sustainable business, Planet Minimal to build a working circular solution that moves their business towards zero waste and gets their product into home kitchens, without adding a single use plastic bottle into the waste system. Ideal make their product at their site in Finedon, Northants, then Planet Minimal fill up a 1000 litre container full of fiLL (Ideal’s new name for this new consumer range), then distribution to the zero waste shops like Liberte Cherie on Portobello Road and others across London, is organised using a ‘top-up-as-needed’ system. Hamish also specialises in zero emission vehicles and has developed a small fleet that have a top up hose, ironically, very similar to the system of topping up vehicle fuel at a conventional petrol station.
Remembering to take your re-useable shopping bags to the supermarket became mainstream almost overnight, and the conscientious consumer appears to be ready to now take with them all the bulk packaging they need to safely transport their purchase back home. And they only buy what they need, (what they can easily carry home) not what they are tempted into over-purchasing by crafty marketers offering 2-for-1 or BOGOF deals. If you forget your carrier system you can buy the groovy, easy-to-refill fiLL bottle.
Phillips colleague Hamish Ainsley of Planet Minimal
“At Planet Minimal and in circular thinking in general, less is nearly always more - a lot more. We focus not on adding ‘things’ for the sake of it, but on reducing the environmental impact at every stage of the journey from product development, manufacture, to distribution, end user input, and then back to product development at factory. There are so many environmental pain points on the circle that the only way to address them is with collaboration, dialogue and a completely open mind. We know we’re having the stimulate behavioural change in consumers too, but everything tells us right now that they’re ready – so we have to be.”
Working in close partnership with Hamish’s start up venture, Ideal are establishing a network of zero waste outlets where consumers can purchase the Ideal product range, safe in the knowledge that all unnecessary packaging has been factored ‘out’ of the distribution plan and that no single use plastic is factored in. This is encouraging behavioural change and connecting their brand to the consumer’s new need to create less landfill.
Phillip Kalli enjoys pioneering partnerships:
“We love being the factory with a purpose that you can access. We have seen our clients send back our empty cartons at their own cost, because it seems like the sensible thing to do. What we’re doing now with fiLLrange is putting that logic into practice and making it into a workable business model, that supports our strategy as a sustainable British laundry detergent maker.”
“We’re on a journey to bring together our personal values regarding the environment, with our desire to stay in business as a successful British manufacturer for a very very long time. So we have to constantly think beyond just looking at the competition and or imitating the big, global players in our field. Circularity is a way to think and plan. Our circular model means close relationships with everyone involved, and building partnerships based on positive interactions every working day.”
If you’d like to hear more about Phillip and Hamish’s venture as it spreads across London and the south east region, listen to them both in conversation with MiB’s John Pearce here:
TRY IT YOURSELF : THINK CIRCULAR
We’re all concerned about plastic waste in the sea and the carbon footprint of what we do every day, but the best way to reduce that stress is to focus on the solutions that are part of step by step change towards sustainable production and consumption.
There’s nothing cryptic about circularity thinking - it’s already here and it’s already solving some of the most pressing waste problems we face in society. Why not think circular in your next marketing planning meeting and reap the many rewards of guaranteeing less landfill and more direct sales.