How We’ve Moved to a More Environmentally Friendly Online Packaging Process

Dan Norris About Black Hops, Equipment Leave a Comment

Packaging and distribution is the final phase of our beer production process, following on from the brewing and cellaring phases.

Previously on the blog we’ve gone into detail on our canning and packaging processes:

  • In this post we covered off what we use for our canning and packaging solutions and how they operate across both our sites.
  • And in this post we looked at our packaging from a design and labelling perspective.

This time we’ll delve into an ancillary packaging process, specifically how we package the beers and merchandise that we sell and ship via our Online Store. In particular we’ll be focusing on how we’ve made this process more environmentally friendly.

Transitioning to our Current Online Packaging Process

Early in the year we made the decision to examine our online packaging processes, with the view to making them as streamlined, and most importantly, as environmentally friendly as possible.

Being more conscious about the environment is something we have always considered, but we have always had to balance that with the reality of the enormous costs and compromises required to build a decent scale independent brewery.

Related: Top 11 Lessons Building A Brewery & Navigating The Valley Of Death Part 1 & Part 2.

Our online packaging process was an area where our team, specifically Leah and Bonnie, took leadership in making some simple suggestions that we think are a great step in the right direction to doing better in this respect. With some small tweaks to how we did things and the packaging materials we used, they found we could achieve this outcome cost effectively and relatively seamlessly.

One of the first things the team did was to largely eliminate the use of bubble wrap and plastic. To help us achieve this we bought a cardboard shredder – you can read more about him (yes he has a name!) further below.

We started using an environmentally friendly packaging tape, Kraft Paper Packing Tape, which we get from BuyEcoGreen Stationery and Products.

The bags that we send out our t-shirts and clothing related merchandise in are now biodegradable. We get these from an Australian company called Hero Packaging, who specialise in 100% compostable, zero waste bags.

We are also transitioning to the use of recycled paper when printing out the daily ‘pick and pack’ lists.

We commenced our new packing process around the time that COVID-19 hit, in mid March. Great timing in hindsight because our online store grew a lot in that time.

Our Current Packaging Process For Online Sales

Our online sales fulfilment is looked after by the newest member of the Black Hops Chair Force, Reanna. The routine she follows is that of a daily ‘pick and pack’ process. Every week day a list of orders to be shipped is run and stickers are printed out with the details of every online order received on the previous day.

The volume of orders fluctuates on a daily basis and is dependent on factors such as whether a limited release beer has just become available in the online store (which often generates a sudden spike in orders).

Once the pick list is generated, Reanna contacts our warehouse storeman, Wowzy, to advise him of the amount of beer she needs to fulfil that day’s orders. Wowzy then brings the required beer to the packing area on a pallet.

Reanna also collects any merchandise orders (eg. T-shirts, tote bags, beanies) from the merch display in the Taproom and brings them to the packing area.

She then works off the packing list, which is an individual order list which has the customers details and the specifics of their order.

The Online Sales Packing Area

Reanna fulfils all of our online orders in a designated packing work-space. The space consists of shelving, a packing table and most importantly, our shredder, who we’ve christened as Frank!

Frank is always hungry and likes to be fed. So Reanna feeds him any spare cartons, packaging that’s been broken down from the taproom, old boxes from Office Works – basically any old cardboard that we have laying around gets shredded by Frank and turned into recycled packing stuffer. Much better than bubble wrap I’m sure you’ll agree!

We use this recycled padding to fill space and help provide extra buffering and protection inside the cartons or boxes we send out. If you have one carton and one 4 pack in a box, there’s plenty of empty space that needs to be stuffed so that the beer doesn’t get damaged in transit. It also works well around glassware (we previously also used bubble wrap for this).

Reanna also uses the environmentally friendly Kraft Paper Packing Tape mentioned earlier, as part of the packaging process as required.

And for our t-shirts and clothing related merchandise sales, she pops them into our 100% compostable, zero waste ‘Hero’ bags.

Reanna now has her packaging process down pat, depending on the size and type of orders. When it comes to beer, the orders will come as either four packs, our mixed 12 pack care packages or 16 pack cartons/cases.

Here are the packaging options we use for these orders:

  • 4 pack cubed boxes
  • 12 pack care package boxes
  • 16 pack cartons
  • Larger cardboard boxes – in the case of mixed orders, such as two cartons, or a carton and a 4 pack.

Each option will require a particular boxed packaging solution, with the level of complexity rising if these options are combined in a ‘mix and match’ order. For example, if a customer orders two four packs, we use the 12 pack boxes and stuff the empty space with the shredded material that Frank gives us.

We package all orders within a maximum 48 hour timeframe (usually quicker depending on what day and time of the week we receive the order). From there the packages are put aside, ready for the courier to come and pick them up in the early afternoon. We ship to anywhere in Australia, including Tasmania.