Sustainable and reusable retail packaging: Whitfords

Paula Ortega of Whitfords

Winner of the Good Retail Awards’ Power of One Award, Whitfords, has demonstrated the significant impact that one positive change can have on the industry. Modern Retail had the pleasure of speaking with Paula Ortega, Founder Of Whitfords, about her inspirational retail journey and reusable retail packaging.

Meet Whitfords

Whitfords is a small, independent skincare brand driven by efficacy and sustainability. They manufacture in-house and their botanical products are 100% plastic-free. Creating products that are gender-neutral, vegan-friendly and certified cruelty-free, Whitfods has ensured that customers don’t need to compromise on their values when it comes to their skin.

Whitfords’ significant introduction of the FibrePod

Whitfords decided to offer customers a sustainable, multi-purpose alternative to packaging, making sure the option would still protect products during shipping, as well as being usable after delivery.

With the goal to create sustainable and reusable retail packaging, Whitfords created FibrePods. To do this, they utilised loofah as the material as it is unprocessed, natural and can be hand-pressed into moulds before air-drying it into the perfect shape to house products. Once a customer receives their product in one of Whitfords’ FibrePods, they can use it as a body or kitchen scrub for weeks, at which point it can be used to germinate seeds instead of plastic pots. After this, it can be put in a compost bin or be planted in the garden with a seedling, decomposing in around 30 days.

Whitfords are in the process of rolling out FibrePods to house their entire range of products, solving the problems associated with process and energy-intense cardboard boxes and creating a reusable, sustainable and innovative alternative to traditional packaging.

FibrePod sustainable and reusable retail packaging inforgraphic

The importance of retailers considering their environmental impact

Paula has put sustainability at the forefront of everything that Whitfords does. She explained the changing attitudes of consumers when it comes to ethical retail.

“Unquestionably, our impact on our environment is something which no longer can be ignored or greenwashed over with slick marketing messages. We see a huge shift, already underway, in the manner in which consumers spend their money, with so much more consideration given to low-impact products and also to those companies who are striving to disrupt their industry with progressive and inclusive values. People are putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to supporting (often smaller) businesses who in turn support an equitable supply chain, a sustainable future, pay fairly and care more about their customers’ welfare than that of corporate profits.”

Sourcing eco-friendly and reusable retail packaging

Whitfords’ FibrePod stands out as a functional and environmentally friendly alternative to commonly found packaging. Paula shared the greatest challenges that she has faced when looking to source the best eco-friendly, reusable retail packaging.

“In our journey to create the FibrePod, we experimented with two different varieties of loofah, the Chinese and the Egyptian. The Chinese is more rigid and holds its shape well, but the Egyptian is much less dense in its fibrous make-up, and so is softer on human skin when used as an exfoliator. The Chinese loofah is more widespread, probably due to its cost, but we wanted our customers to experience the best loofah out there!

“The distance from farm to the UK was also a consideration, so we turned to an Egyptian plantation which whom I had already developed a working relationship with years earlier when I was working developing a jewellery collection using loofah. They grow them organically, without using pesticides and use irrigation from the Nile. They are also completely unprocessed and unbleached.

“Manufacturing the FibrePods is something that took a bit of research and tweaking to get right. Thankfully we have a lot of experience with materials and making within our team and this enables us to take the whole, unprocessed loofah and turn each one into multiple FibrePods in-house. It’s another part of the process that we have total control over.”

Whitfords' FibrePod

Top tips for sustainable products

While Whitfords specialises in skincare, its approach to sustainability can be applied throughout the retail industry.

“We don’t really feel that we’re in a position to be doling out advice to retailers, given we are a small business making skincare! That said, simple questions that dig down into the provenance of a product and its components should bring to light any issues that are at odds with decreasing a reliance on cheap, poorly paid foreign labour and dubiously sourced ingredients. It is also essential to educate customers that fair wages across the supply chain, ethically-sound sustainable products and reassuring certifications inevitably come with a slightly higher price point. We can’t continue our relentless consumerism of cheap goods and still imagine our children won’t be footing the bill. Quality over quantity.”

Customers’ reactions to the FibrePod

Paula’s innovative FibrePod is a unique concept that takes sustainable packaging one step further, making it an exciting part of every purchase that customers can enjoy.

“Reactions have been hugely positive and so encouraging. It has made a lot of time and effort seem worthwhile to have conversations with people who then leave rethinking the purpose of packaging! Even when people don’t buy our products at shows (it happens!), they have often stopped just to commend the ingenuity of the concept – either that or they genuinely have no idea what the FibrePod is and they want to find out!”

Highlights of Whitfords’ journey so far

We asked Paula what her proudest moment has been since she founded Whitfords. Here’s what she had to say:

“I couldn’t pinpoint a single moment, but I remember reading my first product review from a stranger and realising I had created something that people loved.”

Good Retail Awards

Winning at the Good Retail Awards

Paula shared her thoughts on winning the Power of One Award at the Good Retail Awards 2022.

“It’s pretty special to have won, to be honest. We see the FibrePod as a beacon for positive change within our crowded industry, and to have it recognised as such by the Good Retail Awards makes our work all the more worthwhile.”

Paula Ortega of Whitfords wins at Modern Retail Good Retail Awards for reusable retail packaging

What’s next for Whitfords?

Their innovative and reusable retail packaging is only the beginning for Whitfords, with new products and further sustainability efforts on their way.

“We are always looking at ways we can evolve as a business – the FibrePod won’t be the last of our steps towards a more sustainable future, that’s for sure. There are new products on the horizon that we’re very excited to release soon, and many shows coming up where we look forward to meeting more of our lovely customers!”

Click here to view the full list of Good Retail Awards 2022 winners.