Five packaging pitfalls for start-ups to avoid

Five packaging pitfalls for start-ups to avoid

  • Jul 23,2019

Stuart Wilkinson, marketing and sales director at P Wilkinson Containers, shares his essential tips for start-ups when considering their packaging options to ensure products fly off the shelves.

There’s an old adage when you google ‘start-ups’ that says nine in ten entrepreneurs will fail. It is so ubiquitous that the original source has long vanished.  According to Fortune, poor marketing and poor product were cited as two of the top twenty reasons for start-ups to flounder.   And from experience, I can tell you that not fully considering the product packaging can add further complications for start-ups.

As a packaging supplier and stockist, we work with companies from the fledging to the international multi-million-pound earners, helping to manage their packaging supplies for products spanning from food, homecare, cosmetics to luxury promotional items.  This gives us a unique insight into developing packaging with true shelf appeal.

Here I’m sharing by five packaging pitfalls to avoid!

  1. Ignoring the significance of packaging

In many respects, this is connected with market research and having an understanding of what the packaging signifies to your target audience. Let’s take a fairly straightforward confectionary, such as toffee. Toffee can be wrapped in paper or in a PET container, either is perfectly functional and protects the contents. However, if you are aiming for the gift market, a more decorative container might be expected – a bespoke tin perhaps. It’s important to make sure that the packaging is right for the target audience.

  1. Unrealistic forecasting

Where possible, try to develop a realist forecast on cashflow and be honest on what you can financially commit to when deciding on your packaging needs. There are lots of variable that will change swiftly for start-ups on their route to market – pack design, price point, even ingredients. Following the first run of product, start-ups gain a lot more intelligence about their market sectors and it’s essential to be able to adapt.

  1. Find a supplier that has synergies with your brand

When choosing your packaging suppliers, pick one that has synergies with your brand. We work closely with each one of our clients to provide a range of bespoke services such as holding packaging stock on our premises to combat storage issues and manage cashflow; helping to adapt existing packaging to fit other formats, and delivering packaging within extremely short lead times.  A larger manufacturer will have longer lead times.  Look for a stockist that fits your business needs, can offer a quick reaction and will have an account manager that believes in you and your product.

  1. Don’t hold back information

This is an extension of the above point. Don’t hold back from your packaging suppliers, make sure you fully explain the product and also your own background. We invest in our clients as much as they invest in us. For example, we have sister London-based canmaking factory, William Say & Co., which has the capacity to make bespoke features for cans – such as embossed lids with company logos. This requires us to develop specialist tooling, but is something we’re happy to do when we believe in the product as much as you do. Plus, having an assessment of the wider picture will also help us advise you on the best packaging options to suit your current status.

  1. Don’t be overly rigid

When working with start-ups, we deliberately look for ways to minimise the exposure to the business. One of the most effective ways for us to that is to take a standard product that we already stock, such as a clear PET container or a slip-lid tin, and offer additional services to make it bespoke. At William Say, for example, we have a number of different coloured materials we can use to make a range of cans and we can also create digitally printed labels which are applied to these containers on site to give them the unique look.

Developing a product this way means that we can offer start-ups a smaller minimum quantity, as little as 500 pieces in one run, rather than an industry average of 20,000. This helps to reduce the cost of entry into the market and doesn’t saddle start-ups with huge packaging costs when cashflow is limited.

We’ve recently invested in an in-line labeller, which has reduced our reaction time. For start-ups, the quantity of product needed can fluctuate wildly, only one additional listing can double the amount. For instance, at our William Say factory, the inline labeller allows us to print labels at the same time as the tins are in production – doubling our efficiency and helping entrepreneurs take advantage of any opportunity that comes their way.

With this in mind, try to be open-minded with packaging designs. You may have the design for a one-off unique can design, which would be costly to set up and produce, but there may be other options out there which can help to reduce your exposure without a negative impact on your brand and sales. Consult your stockist at an early stage to see what they can do for you to minimise any packaging risks.

If you’re a start-up thinking about your packaging needs, then do get in touch either email me at, 020 7237 4500 or via



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