Courage. Vision. Determination. These are qualities Planet Protector Packaging is demonstrating in spades as it strives to build the standing of its Woolpack range of insulated packaging solutions designed as an alternative to polystyrene packaging for cold chain distribution. Lindy Hughson reports. This article was first published in Food & Drink Business April 2021.

The humble beginnings and rise to prominence of Planet Protector Packaging (PPP) have already been well documented in the pages of Food & Drink Business. In the four short years since its establishment, the company has been the recipient of a series of funding grants and numerous national and international awards for its packaging innovation. Founder and managing director Joanne Howarth, a passionate protagonist for her cause – eradicating polystyrene from the chilled distribution supply chain – has also gained global recognition for her ingenuity and leadership.

Now the company is expanding its footprint across Australia and into Asia, has embarked on a capital raise to fund its expansion, has inked a distribution partnership for Woolpack with ASX-listed Pro-Pac Packaging (PPG), and is continuing to fuel its Woolpack innovation pipeline.

Next stop Tasmania

With established operations in New South Wales and New Zealand, Tasmania is the next port of call for PPP. Supported by a Boosting Female Founders Grant, PPP will be setting up shop in Tasmania in mid-2021.

“We have just secured premises for a warehouse facility adjacent to the Launceston Airport, from which it is the intention to service the entire Tasmanian market,” Joanne Howarth tells Food & Drink Business.

“Tasmania has some of the country’s finest seafood, agricultural produce, beautiful berries, cherries, dairy, wines, abalone, lobsters, much of which is exported,” she says.

PPP will be working with the Brand Tasmania organisation, which is keen to leverage the opportunities around sustainable packaging as a way of differentiating the premium Tasmanian product.

To mark its entry into Tasmania, PPP is partnering with TasFoods to showcase Woolpack at Agfest in Hobart from 5-8 May.

“This will enable PPP to connect with early adopters, local market leaders and the Tassie greater community to encourage them to reach out to their favourite companies and urge them to ditch polystyrene for the greater good of the oceans and leaving them in a flourishing state,” Howarth says.

Jane Bennett, CEO and managing director of TasFoods tells Food & Drink Business the company first trialled PPP’s insulated box solution for its online orders last year.

“We were excited to find a packaging solution that provided us with the insulation properties we required for our perishable products that was so much more sustainable and better for the environment than polystyrene.

“We discovered that the packaging not only provides better insulation properties than polystyrene, but it provides a cushioned packaging which is great when our hampers and packs include glass jars and perishable products,” Bennett says.

“TasFoods’ purpose is to deliver the essence of Tasmania to the table. We are building a portfolio of leading Tasmanian food brands that leverage the natural advantages of Tasmania and its reputation for fine food,” she continues.

“This year we are growing our online sales significantly through improving our product offering and utilising a new refrigerated logistics solution that delivers direct to the customer door across Australia.”

The company is expanding its product range to include other premium Tasmanian products and brands to provide a top-end Tasmanian flavoured solution for home entertaining occasions, hampers, and corporate gifting.

“A large proportion of our product range is perishable and requires refrigeration to maintain shelf life. PPP’s Woolpack is a core component of our ability to consistently deliver boxes and hampers in the condition consumers expect and maintain the cool chain even when the product is left on the doorstep,” Bennett says.

One of the businesses owned by TasFoods is Shima Wasabi, Australia’s only commercial wasabi farm.

“We deliver fresh wasabi leaves, flowers and the stem used to grate into wasabi paste directly to chefs around Australia who require this expensive vegetable to arrive in perfect condition, ready to serve,” Bennett explains. “The Woolpack packaging keeps the wasabi cool and protects the delicate flowers and leaves during transit. Our customers appreciate that the packaging fits within their standard waste processes more comfortably than polystyrene.”

Commenting on the imminent establishment of PPP’s operations in Tasmania, Bennett says, “We are excited at the prospect of having the packaging produced locally in Tasmania, enhancing our ability to support local businesses and the agricultural community of Tasmania.”

New directions

Asked where to next after Tasmania, Howarth says, “We’re heading south to wine country, the Barossa Valley”. The plan is to set up close to winemakers as the company prepares to debut its new Wine Protector range in late 2021.

“This range is designed to provide tailored solutions for both domestic and export shipping, anywhere from small gifting ranges to large pallet transportation,” she explains.

The single or double pack retail solution will be positioned as a high-end, premium offering for gifts. The second solution will be available in 6-, 9-, or 12-pack configurations to consolidate wines for shipping.

“Wine Protector will provide both cushioning and temperature control to ensure the wine arrives to its destination in pristine condition,” Howarth says.

Intent on expanding its horizons beyond Australian borders, PPP is looking at a launch in Asia for 2022.

“We’re currently checking market entry feasibility for Indonesia and Singapore, where we’d be looking for distribution partners; and we’re in discussions with a distribution partner in Korea,” Howarth says.

To fund these ambitious plans, the company is in the process of a capital raise for at least $6 million. It has opened a data room to a range of private, institutional and impact investors spanning the globe.

“While pen has not hit paper just quite yet, we are confident we have found a major partner with whom we can rapidly expand and increase our impact,” Howarth says.

It is Howarth’s unwavering commitment, and the passionate desire on the part of her team to make a positive impact when it comes to protecting the planet from the ravages of polystyrene, that has brought the company thus far on its journey and will no doubt fuel its growth as its footprint expands.

Packaging News

In an Australian-first, Colgate-Palmolive has launched a kerbside recyclable tube for its Colgate Smile for Good toothpaste range, and is making its packaging technology available to all competitors.

Packaging giant Amcor has raised its full year profits outlook, as third quarter figures all trend upwards, and its free cashflow tops US$1bn.

At an event in Sydney this week, industry and academia involved in the smart sensing project for HDPE recycling shared progress and key findings of the NSW government backed initiative.