UK-based Flexi-Hex set out to ban plastics from packaging with its paper-based e-commerce and gifting solutions that combine functionality and aesthetics. Its flexible honeycomb packaging has proved popular among luxury wines and spirits brands, and is also making inroads in beauty.
Flexi-Hex, founded in the UK by Will and Sam Boex in 2018, began with a simple idea. After a surfboard bought online arrived wrapped in layers of bubble wrap, Sam Boex called on his 15 years of experience in product design to come up with a better packaging solution. “We thought, why not make something that not only looks really good, but also works?” he tells Luxe Packaging Insight. Indeed, there continues to be a huge gap and opportunity in the market for aesthetic, protective packaging solutions. “There simply aren’t that many options on the market.” But, Boex adds, “E-commerce is the new shop front. The packaging received is key to how brands are perceived.”
Flexi-Hex’s recyclable patented sleeves are made from paper (using recycled content where possible). Thanks to their hexagonal cell structure, they expand and form around the shape of the product, “like a honeycomb sandwich”. And the cost? “We’re a start-up, so probably about 25-30% more expensive than other packaging solutions on the market at the moment,” says Boex, adding that the product offer could potentially become much more competitive.
Bombay Sapphire was the first drinks brand to adopt the Flexi-Hex sleeve, which the company says is now used by more than 25% of UK distilleries. Drinks currently account for 85% of Flexi-Hex’s sales, and its home market is also its biggest.
The company is developing a series of outer carton options to support the sleeve – from premium presentation boxes to high volume e-commerce solutions. Flexi-Hex sleeves are currently manufactured in Asia, but “ultimately we want to be manufacturing at source,” says Boex, who envisages producing in Europe, the US and Australia.
The company is now moving into cosmetics; its Flexi-Hex Air Sleeve made of tissue paper is produced by and licensed to Seaman Paper. A soft launch is underway for Lockbox, an outer carton solution for beauty e-commerce that enables different size fragile products to be packed together.
Cosmetics currently account for around 5% of revenues, but could come to represent at least 40%-50% of the business. “We see huge potential in the cosmetics industry,” says Boex. “Flexi-Hex is effectively replacing bubble wrap and bubble wrap bags.” Its paper sleeve solutions also have a big impact on warehousing and logistics spaces, he highlights. “You can fit 26,000 Air Sleeves on one palette. It represents around one quarter of the volume of some pulp solutions.”
As for future developments, Flexi-Hex is looking at targeting online art and paint sold at e-commerce. Using Flexi-Hex for product returns and refills are also areas with potential.