The Art of Christmas
How to develop a new festive eco packaging range

This Autumn we launched a compostable new seasonal collection – Festive Favourites - ready for Christmas. The merry mini range includes a retro-look 12oz compostable cup, a grease-resistantdeli paper sheet and contrasting sticker, along with a nine per sheet label. Developed specifically for seasonal beverages, sandwiches and snacks, Festive Favourites has been several Christmas’ in the making. Here we discuss how our latest collection went from concept to counter and the importance of finding the right look in the competitive Christmas market.

In the run up to Christmas’ past, we’d receive a handful of enquiries regarding seasonal products, usually cups. Around 2016, however, interest spiked quite dramatically. Our customers had seen the ways in which big name high street operators were boosting their own sales through seasonal products and they wanted to do the same. As with any well designed product, the most popular have become the most coveted and large coffee shop retailers are increasingly using Christmas cups as a platform for their entire brand.

The Christmas market is a highly competitive one and nothing captures the consumer’s imagination like the festive period. In some ways seasonal cup designs have become the grab and go industry’s equivalent of the much anticipated department store Christmas ads. Who offers ‘the best’ has become a point of interest and one nearly as hotly debated as who owns the Christmas sandwich top spot (though it’s worth noting that while the hashtag ‘ChristmasSandwich’ brings up a mere 3K posts in Instagram, ‘ChristmasCup’ brings up 37K).

In 2016, a growing number of our customers were watching this developing market and told us they wanted in on the action so we set to work. However, launching a new collection, from early concept to finished product(s), typically takes a year or more. We like to explore a few designs, ask our customers what they think works best (as well as what does not) and get each and every product just right. Once the designs have been finalised, they are sent off to our specialist factories. Before the products can go into production however, we need to see proofs (these are often flat sheets of the compostable material(s) that the products will be made from) to check the colours and print, we often require formed sample products too which have to be specially made. After this the products can go into production. The proofing stage alone can take a few months and this is all presuming that we don’t change anything along the way, in which case we might need to go back to the drawing board – sometimes quite literally. We need to factor in delivery times too, if the products are produced in the UK this will only be a day or so but if the products are made overseas, we need to allow for the time that they will spend on the water. It’s worth noting that we transport goods in very specific volumes – there must be enough to fill our allocated portion of a shipping container – which helps to keep our carbon footprint as low as possible. This sometimes means waiting for other products to be ready so that the correct volume is reached. Our purchasing department play a never ending game of real life eco-Tetris.

Not all of our products operate on these same timelines. For example our labels and deli papers are made in the UK and can be ready in as little as three weeks.  Nevertheless, whether we send a new product or an entire collection into production, we like to know that it’s been proofed, scrutinised and thoroughly tested to ensure it meets our own high standards as well as those of our customers.

The brief for our Christmas cup was simple: it had to be colourful, it had to be compostable and it had to be seasonal but beyond that we gave our expert packaging designer’s free reign. The team created some beautiful initial designs which were then worked up into two concepts: a clean cut-out design of deer in the snow, and a bolder more nostalgic option which reintroduced some very familiar faces – Father Christmas and Snowman. Now this Father Christmas and Snowman weren’t just your average Christmas icons, they’d been borrowed from our Festive Favourites sheet label. A big seller in the early nineties, the label was brought back, by popular demand, in 2016 to mark our 30th year. When we showed the concepts to our customers, we found that the more nostalgic option had the edge so we explored some further designs in a similar vein to see what our customers made of those. The second round of concepts featured a revised version of the Festive Favourites label inspired design, plus a new ‘Night Before Christmas’ concept too.   

While the new concept was well received, Festive Favourites still had the edge. Feedback suggested that customers were finding both designs a little too busy. Another key point to come from this second consultation was that, while many customers stated their preference for a more playful design, they didn’t want a design that looked like it was for the children’s market. With this in mind, we decided to ramp up the retro and give the range an altogether more 50s feel.

Up until this point, Festive Favourites was going to be a cup, not a full range. We were also mindful that the Christmas Cup phenomenon could die a death by the following year so we watched the 2017 market develop with great interest. As with the previous year, enquiries for Christmas cups came often, and in higher volumes still than previous years. Customers were also asking for other Christmas packaging options too – something to accommodate all of their seasonal sandwiches and snacks - so we set to thinking how best to expand into a  seasonal rage. A deli paper and matching sticker felt like the most logical choice – our deli papers are already some of our most popular products because they’re both home and industrially compostable, recyclable, cost effective and versatile to boot. What’s more, introducing a sticker not only gave our customers something to seal the deli paper with, it also offered a means to denote other items in their Christmas range(s).  

We experimented with a few designs and colourways before settling on a modern yet retro shade of teal, we felt that this lent a more sophisticated edge to the range whilst retaining a bright and playful finish, the teal also popped really well against the red festive sticker. The cup design was amended to reflect the new look.

The final designs were signed off in May of this year, the artwork was then sent to our compostable cup manufacturer so that they could produce proofs. Over the summer we had a bit of to-ing and fro-ing regarding the colours, Father Christmas’s cheeks were a little too rosy on the first round and looked as though he’d been at the Christmas sherry. We had to adjust the colours slightly to accommodate the different types of materials used across the range too as subtle differences between the finishes and thickness of materials can affect the ink coverage and colour(s). In July, we sent the range to print.

We launched the Festive Favourites collection at the start of September, nearly a year and a half after we first began dreaming up designs. Within the first 24 hours we had 11,000 units on pre-order, by mid November we'd sold out. I think it’s fair to say that Festive Favourites was a few Christmas’ in the making (more than twenty if you take into consideration the original label design). But you know what, we think it was worth every minute and we hope that our customers do too because when it comes to their businesses, we think it’s always time well spent.

The Festive Favourites Mini Collection includes…

Festive Favourites 12oz Bio Cup

Our 12oz Festive Favourites bio cup is full of winter cheer. Featuring Father Christmas and Snowman characters on a seasonal print, our disposable, compostable Christmas cup brings a jolly, retro feel to your festive beverage offering.

Made from sustainable plant-based materials, this disposable seasonal cup is lined with an EN13432 certified home compostable PLA liner that will break down in an industrial composting environment (where facilitated). The bio cup also has a double walled construction that keeps drinks (and not hands) the temperature you intended - we offer a certified compostable lid as well to finish the job. 

For more information on the FestiveFavourites compostable packaging and labelling range or our Holly or Gift Tag labels, please click the relevant links. 

Ends

Quality Control

How Elior delivers accurate, legislatively compliant allergen labelling across 200+ sites

At the start of this year, leading contract caterer Elior introduced our ground breaking food labelling software to more than 200 of its UK sites allowing the company to take a set of ingredients, turn them into a recipe, test, trial, cook, create the labelling, monitor sales then analyse every part of that process from start to finish. Elior’s Ian Smith talks us through the roll out and the impact it’s had on the business.

Read more

Waste Not Want Not

Offering caterers a cost-effective onsite solution for the eco disposal of food and packaging waste

Could it be time to sidestep commercial waste collection services and close the loop onsite?

Read more

Working from Home

How one Isle of Man-based coffee shop found zero waste meant taking matters into their own hands

When family team Sian Penton and Ed Alderson, bought Coffee Exchange in May 2018, they sought to develop the enterprise’s environmental offering in a bid to move the business towards zero waste. But with no infrastructure on the island for industrially composting waste, the couple decided to take matters into their own hands...

Read more

Candy Crush

CQUIN: Final Deadline Arrives

Back in October 2015, NHS England launched CQUIN - three rounds of targets to reduce the volumes of high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) items on offer in healthcare environments by April 2019. With the final deadline now upon us, we take a look at what food and drink providers can still do to meet the targets.

Read more