According to a pre-pandemic article by Clutch, 54% of all online shoppers in 2019 belonged to subscription box service. Shoppers subscribed then because of the “appeal to members’ desire for convenient, personalized shopping.” Clutch attributes the popularity “to e-commerce’s growth, social media, and consumer comfort with paying for value over time.”

Since 2019, the popularity of subscription box services has increased rapidly. According to Brian Gately, graphic POP, eCommerce, and display advisor at Buckeye Corrugated, “The market [in 2021] is now very competitive and covers a huge range of products and themes. It’s difficult to name something that a subscription-based service does not exist for. People are continuing to trend towards ordering products and goods to their door v. going in-store to purchase.”

During the current surge and, hopefully, in a future pandemic-free world, Gately expects that “growth will continue to accelerate in the subscription space.”

Questions persist: What about the subscription boxes themselves? Who makes them? What are the protocols? What are the market trends? What about the carbon footprint?

I was fortunate to interview the aforementioned expert and second-generation corrugated box aficionado. Yes, such a person does exist. Gately’s father recently retired after more than 36 years in the corrugated box industry. Gately ruminated, “You could say it’s in my blood.”

The Interview follows:

Hedley: What is a subscription box?

Gately: A subscription box is a set of products or goods (often themed), packaged in a box, and sent to customers on a recurring schedule (typically monthly or quarterly).

Hedley: Your company seems to combine the pragmatic with the creative, the yin and yang if you will. How are you able to integrate the art, the science, and the technology of product protection into your package production?

Gately: When evaluating a project, the first thing to consider is how to get the product from point A to point B safely and efficiently. You can have the most beautiful box in the world, but if it doesn’t fit and protect the product inside, the appearance will be for naught. Fit to Product packaging (FtP) has become extremely important for CPG (consumer packaged goods) and eCommerce brands. Having your packaging Fit to Product is not only essential to protecting the product and enhancing the appearance, but it also can add significant value to a brand through optimizing their dimensional weight for shipping.”

Hedley: Your boxes seem both utilitarian and beautiful. Your thoughts?

Gately: Beautiful or highly graphic boxes are my favorite and the most fun. However, not all applications call for branding and printing color. Sometimes eliminating unnecessary components or creating an application that reduces assembly time can be just as rewarding.

Hedley: What challenges has the corrugated industry faced (like supply chain issues during the pandemic)? Were they overcome? How?

Gately: We have been extremely fortunate to continue operations throughout the pandemic and maintain a healthy team. The labor market has been a bit of a challenge. As our industry saw unprecedented growth, we were running more machine hours than ever. I’ve seen a lot of our team members step up and fill multiple roles to keep the operation moving at pace. Staying flexible and continuing to improve processes has been integral to our success.

Hedley: I spent some time looking at the Buckeye website, especially the sustainability part (35% reduction of GHG emissions, 49% recycled content in an average corrugated box, 89.5% recovery rate of recycled fiber).  How is the corrugated industry helping to reduce their carbon footprint?

Gately: Roughly 90 percent of our corrugated cardboard gets recycled. It is the single most recycled packaging material today, but there is room for improvement in our recycling infrastructure – especially in urban areas.

For more information about subscription box packaging from leading packaging experts, watch the panel discussion below.

Hedley: What is the driving force behind your commitment to sustainability?

Gately: First, we have a duty to support the community and environment that we operate in. More importantly, the sustainable option is often the most efficient. By operating efficiently, we are able to limit our footprint on the environment and add value to our partners.

Hedley: What is the future of sustainability (production, transport, disposal) in the subscription box industry?

Gately: I expect to see more brands paying attention to recycled content, sustainable inks, and Fit to Product packaging. Printed instructions on how to recycle packaging is something consumers should also expect to become more prevalent.

Hedley: What else?

Gately: The forest products industry plants 1.7 million new trees each day, growing more than is harvested annually.

Hedley: What else?

Gately: I expect us to continue to strive to reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions. Using smarter energy is something the paper industry is consistently improving upon.

Gately was a goalkeeper in college. Today, he continues his craft on a city league team. Like a keeper defending his goal, the boxes his company manufactures protect the valuable space within. While the goalie comparison may make you roll your eyes, the beautiful, safe, monthly surprise you get in the mail from a company that you love should not. Take a moment to check out the package. If it is made from eco-friendly materials, recyclable, fits to product, and is aesthetically pleasing, then you can begin to truly enjoy the personalized content within.

Need help with your packaging? RSN helps companies make their packaging more sustainable. Learn more about our sustainable packaging services here.

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