Serving Sustainability with our Supplier, SoluPak

Formed in 1998, SoluPak have fast become leaders in the field of water-soluble products. Through the development, formulation, packaging, and distribution of polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) cleaning materials, they are challenging the status-quo of water-based products. Eco-responsibility is at the core of SoluPak’s business model, helping customers to save staggering amounts on transport costs (up to 93%!). In addition, they exclusively partner with companies of similar eco beliefs and values, like Greyhound Box. And in a world where the eco-revolution is gathering momentum, we thought it the perfect time to sit down with the SoluPak team and have a chat all-things sustainable!

Where did the initial idea for SoluPak come from?

24 years ago, Peter Minister and Stephen Coleman set up the business with the intention to work as the broker between film suppliers and consumers. During this time, they realised that there was a tangible opening for a film-led, dose-controlled product that could not only work to reduce the amount of transportation needed to get cleaning products from A to B, but also demand less storage space.

So, a small team was brought together to design and engineer (in-house) the necessary manufacturing machinery to make SoluPak’s first round of soluble pods. At this initial stage, any environmental benefits were purely a bi-product of the rather simple concept. Though, it soon became clear that vast opportunity lay in PVOH films to counteract single-use plastic! So, we rebalanced our business driver to truly inhabit sustainable practices into every element of the business.

Here’s a challenge – can you sum up how your product helps the environment in 50 words or less?

We favour the phrase ‘eco-responsible’ over ‘eco-friendly’, because it’s how we manufacture our products and the ingredients that go into them that ensure minimal environmental impact. By turn, this reduces the end-user’s effects on the environment, too. 40 words, nice!

How long did it take to get people really listening to you about the benefits of soluble solutions?

In all honesty, it’s felt like a long time! Ultimately, ‘eco’ products, be it a cleaning solution or a new mode of transport, have always had a bit of a reputation for not being that effective. After all, when you remove some chemicals from a cleaning product and don’t replace them, then they’re not going to be anywhere near as effective! What we do at SoluPak, however, is ensure that the ingredients that go into our products are just as effective – if not, more – only without environmental consequences. And it has to be said that the proof is in the pudding; our customers wouldn’t be coming back for more if our products didn’t work!

How far has customer opinion changed towards favouring more sustainable solutions?

Back in 2018/19, we saw a real surge in interest from customers, as well as requests in tenders, about the sustainability of our products and their manufacturing. Combine Brexit with our current emergence from the pandemic, and we’re seeing more and more genuine, eco-conscious conversations between businesses looking to find a supplier. In fact, it’s usually the first topic we’re asked about during new business calls!

More ways to practice sustainable living emerge every day – what’s your involvement in increasing this awareness?

Generally speaking, the ability to be eco-conscious stems from education in the sense that unless you have an awareness of an alternative way of doing something, you’re going to struggle to practice it!

Our concept has opened the door to a plethora of other product lines and opportunities for businesses. Not only are we the formulator, but we’re also the leading manufacture of this product. Our expertise in water soluble films means we’re always hearing ‘I’ve got an idea!’ and being approached to develop the next niche cleaning product. From using PVOH films for bike cleaners to fish pond cleaners, all of these ideas stem from the core concept of removing unnecessary water from a product.

What are the biggest benefits to customers of using SoluPak’s products?

On the shelf, our products are comparative to the cost of other chemical cleaners out there. However, what stands SoluPak apart is the fact that our product is dosage controlled, too. Most people are unfortunately overusing chemicals, like adding more detergent to the washing machine than necessary. So, given the ability to properly control the amount of chemical being used per clean and not overdosing the chemical, companies naturally use the right amount and no more, therefore saving money.

Another cost saving comes from reduced waste; every time you throw out a regular spray bottle, the amount of rubbish in your bin mounts. Our ‘bottle for life’ omits this issue, with the soluble films also driving down the amount of dispose created. For instance, we supply the one of the UK’s leading bakeries with our cleaning products; they now have reduced their waste collections by a third!

You’ve been using Greyhound Box as your packaging supplier for years – what attracted you to them?

Greyhound Box are people-people; like us, they value close and honest relationships and encourage open conversations. They’re exemplary at keeping us informed on the supply of their outer corrugated packaging that we use to package our product, and we’re pleased to see how far our relationship really has grown over the years!

How important is it for SoluPak to partner with companies that have similar ‘green’ agendas?

It’s huge. We’ve got significant requirements that our suppliers must meet to fulfil a relationship with us; we really look at the standards that they work to. Being Yorkshire based, we especially favour suppliers in our local area to not only support our economy, but also lessen our carbon footprint. This helps us to also meet our Planet Mark certification and retain our approval. That’s despite our ability to package our product in a ready-to-use state and reduce the number of pallets needed for transport from 35 to 1!

How else are you working to reduce the carbon footprint of the production, transport, and impact of your product?

Not a day goes by where we aren’t seeking evolvement in how we package and transport our product. We’re always thinking about how we can reduce the size of the packaging, what’s actually in the package, and also the materials used on the outside as well; what other/better materials are there out there?

We’re also keen to reinforce that plastic is indeed a great resource when used in the correct form. For instance, our bottles are made from recycled plastic, a material that’s far lighter than something like aluminium. As such, it takes less to transport it and its lifespan is truly worthy of the use of the product – it’s a bottle, for life. Ultimately, when looking at how we use plastic, it’s all about being responsible.

We’d like to extend a huge ‘thank you’ to Helen McDonald and Sophie Burgess from SoluPak for taking the time to talk with us about SoluPak and sustainability!

Are you interested in making your business more eco-responsible? Find out how we can help by getting in touch!