Significant reduction in damaged orders for Laithwaites

Wine merchant puts its packaging through its paces to ensure product protection.

Online wine retailer Laithwaites wanted to improve the protection performance of its packaging while also eradicating plastic from its portfolio. The company turned to packaging experts DS Smith to ensure these ambitious targets were realised.

Product protection

To enhance the protection that Laithwaites’ packaging provides to its fragile glass bottles, DS Smith started by undertaking an audit of the company’s supply chain and the journey the product takes to the consumer.

Rob Carle, UK Head of Sales, e-commerce at DS Smith explains, “The e-commerce supply chain can have as many as 50 touchpoints so it’s important to understand the route that each brand’s parcels take. But during this journey, it is the last mile when the package is in the courier network that is the most challenging.

“This final stage sees the package knocked, bumped, rolled about in the back of a van and on occasions, dropped by the courier – so for fragile products like bottles of wine, this last mile can be a real challenge and for Laithwaites, it’s where they saw the most breakages.”

Using this insight, DS Smith designed enhanced packaging that would offer protection from the jolts and impacts of the courier delivery network. To trial the effectiveness of the solution before sending it into the supply chain, Laithwaites put its packaging to the test using DS Smith’s innovative DISCS™ technology.


Replicating each part of the product’s journey to consumer, the process includes Drop, Impact, Shock, Crush and Shake (DISCS) tests. Crucial for effectively enhancing the protection of the wine packaging, was the drop test. This allowed weak points to be identified and adapted to provide additional protection.

Andrew Hawker, Head of Logistics at Laithwaites said, “The drop test video footage is a great asset for us. Not only does it showcase the design expertise and performance of our packaging, but it also supports our conversations with couriers should our products arrive damaged or in a poor condition.

“Since using DISCS, we have seen a significant reduction in damaged customer orders which has had a direct and positive impact on our company’s bottom line.”

Eradicating plastic

In addition to providing crucial protection for its products, the heart of Laithwaites’ packaging philosophy is sustainability and recyclability. The company has always used recycled fibres for its corrugated board and boxes, continually striving to get the best possible quality from these materials.

Andrew Hawker explains, “Balancing the sustainability and protection needs of packaging can be a challenge, especially in the e-commerce sector where the unboxing experience is vital to engaging and establishing a connection with the customer.

“After Blue Planet unveiled the true impact of plastics on the environment and in response to direct consumer feedback on our packaging, we took a positive step to completely eradicate plastic from our supply chain with the expert support and insight of DS Smith.”

In its smaller cases of single, two or three bottles of wine, Laithwaites historically incorporated plastic air packs to provide added protection and cushioning for the wine’s journey to the consumer. An innovative cardboard wraparound was created by DS Smith to replace the plastic, which provides the protection required and ensures that the packaging is easily recyclable by consumers at the curbside.

This significant step forward removes plastic from all of Laithwaites’ packaging, as its larger 12 and 15 bottle cases and gifting packs are all formed of recycled corrugated only.

Rob Carle adds, “Laithwaites is a great example of an e-commerce retailer leading the way and finding effective alternatives to plastic. Corrugated board is 100% recyclable at end of life and can be manufactured from recycled fibres. It’s also highly protective, making it ideal for the e-commerce supply chain and should be considered in other possible plastic replacement scenarios such as the ideal closed-loop solution.”

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