Amcor highlights lessons learned from two years of ecommerce packaging tests in its ISTA labs in the US, Belgium; Amcor says to design with tough conditions in mind and that 'the ideal ecommerce pack’ is one that is more sustainable, robust, lightweight

Sample article from our Packaging Industry

January 31, 2022 (press release) –

Two years on from the launch of Amcor’s ecommerce testing labs, find out what we’ve learned and how our customers have prevented product loss by designing packaging to address weak points like seals, spouts, and caps.

Two years ago, we opened two ISTA-certified ecommerce testing laboratories – one in the US and one in Belgium – to help brands optimize packaging for the ecommerce channel. At both sites, our packaging experts test and certify packaging for customers from around the world to ensure that products reach on-line shoppers quickly, safely, and more sustainably.

To celebrate the anniversary, we spoke to Eliana Atramiz, technology development manager, and Kenneth Anciaux, ISTA lab technician, about what they’ve learned from testing packaging for everything from soups to laundry detergent to automobile parts.

Lesson 1: Design with tough ecommerce conditions in mind

Designing with ecommerce conditions in mind and testing early in the pack development process is ideal for brands and distributors, as weak points in a pack’s design can be addressed right from the start. This means that brands are more likely to achieve their goal of packaging that is convenient, attractive, and more sustainable, while robust enough to get products to consumers without leaking or breaking.

CASE STUDY: Sports Nutrition Brand | Recycle-ready PE single lip bag for nutrition powders

Amcor partnered with a leading sports nutrition brand to overcome the challenge of moving from non-recyclable 3-ply pouch into a recycle-ready packaging solution that is both ecommerce-ready and easily opened by consumers. Raw materials and film formulations were selected by our R&D team that produced a recycle-ready single lip bag using a 2-ply mono-PE material. The new pack’s recycle-ready design was tested in our Ecommerce Laboratory against the ISTA 6A standards. In addition to being robust, the pack is designed to be recyclable in PE recycling streams. And it’s not just for athletes. It can be for their canine running companions too. The same packaging has been successfully tested for dry pet food.

For ecommerce, there are multiple testing protocols, but one of the most recognized is ISTA 6A – a series of packaging tests designed by the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) and Amazon. Since these tests mimic a typical ecommerce supply chain, we’ve discovered that most products fail between the parcel delivery centre and consumers’ homes. Having been through the first part of the supply chain and likely experienced multiple drops plus vibration from transportation, this crucial moment of delivery is the last part of the journey.

Discover more about Amcor’s ecommerce testing capabilities.

Lesson 2: More sustainable + robust + lightweight = the ideal ecommerce pack

The global pandemic has significantly accelerated the growth of ecommerce. Across Europe, ecommerce grew by 47% in 2020. Despite health and safety being top priority for many, more sustainable packaging is still at the forefront of consumers’ minds. A 2020 McKinsey study found that globally, consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging. In Germany, Italy, India, and the United Kingdom, 56-59% say they are willing to pay “a lot” or “a bit more” for sustainable packaging.

Brands are expected to balance the demand for more sustainable packages that reach consumers quickly and safely. Damage and products delivered in non-recyclable materials can have financial and reputational costs for brands and distributors. 41% of consumers feel a negative impact toward a brand’s image when a shipment is lost, delayed or arrives damaged; and, 80% of ecommerce shoppers are bothered by oversized packaging.

The problem, however, is that while many of the materials used to make robust bags and pouches in the past – such as PET films and PVDC films – are not recyclable, the recyclable alternatives, like mono-PE and mono-PP, are not as resilient to begin with. This presents a challenge when ensuring recycle-ready packaging options are ecommerce-ready.

At Amcor, having in-house ISTA labs makes this possible. Through our Digital Simulation service, we work with customers to simulate the behavior of different packaging solutions to optimize format and performance for ecommerce. That’s how we were able to develop a recycle-ready and ecommerce-ready mono-PE single lip bag for a leading sports nutrition brand (case study above).

The good news is that after extensive ISTA testing, we’ve found that more sustainable packaging such as those developed to be recycle-ready or made from bio-based materials, are able to perform to the standards required for the ecommerce chain.

Lesson 3: Amazon leads the way in standardized ecommerce packaging guidelines

As one of the world’s largest online retailers, Amazon encourages more robust primary packaging with its ISTA 6 Amazon certification. Its incentive program was launched in the US in 2018, and later this year will be expanded to include smaller items as well as be rolled out across five European countries. The incentive provides credits for certified packaging and a chargeback of $1.99 per unit for uncertified larger packages.

Many brands and retailers use ISTA 6A as a reference, investing in Frustration-Free Packaging. This ensures that primary and secondary packaging is as optimized as possible - convenient, more sustainable, and most importantly, protects the product through its ecommerce journey.

Our ecommerce-testing laboratories are certified to test packaged products for ISTA 6A and offer a range of other tests, too. We are also a member of the Amazon Packaging Support and Supplier Network (APASS). ISTA-certified labs and APASS listed suppliers help vendors make sure their packaging meets Amazon’s packaging standards.

Whether we make the packaging, or whether it’s sourced elsewhere, we can run tests, consult on pack design and help brands gain ISTA 6A certification.

While Amazon is setting the standard for ecommerce packaging guidelines, Amcor stays on top of current and upcoming industry standards to ensure that regardless of retailer or distributor, a brand can make sure its packaging will thrive in the most challenging sales channel - ecommerce.

Lesson 4: Digital simulation maximizes efficiency and reduces cost

For over 20 years, our digital simulation services for packaging have helped save precious R&D time in the healthcare industry’s lengthy, regulated, product development process. Now, these learnings and simulation skills can be applied to ecommerce.

The data we gather from physical ISTA tests helps us further develop these digital simulations. This means that we can simulate the characteristics of “real” materials to test multiple different package designs and scenarios, and end up with 2-3 possible ecommerce-ready solutions for a customer to take forward into physical prototyping and development.

Brands can simulate different variables in their packaging and supply chain such as material, sealants, production process, and supply chain to identify how changes to the packaging could impact its resistance and durability in the ecommerce journey. This is a unique offer that improves efficiency and reduces cost and R&D development time.

For brands that want to launch products quickly and confidently, Amcor’s collection of ecommerce-ready packs are available. Through ISTA 6 Amazon pre-testing, these packs are proven to endure the complex ecommerce supply chain. The range includes our recycle-ready stand-up pouch and single lip bag, both suitable for a variety of applications such as coffee, home cleaning products, personal care products, snacks and confectionery.

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Jason Irving
Jason Irving
- SVP Enterprise Solutions -

We offer built-to-order packaging industry coverage for our clients. Contact us for a free consultation.

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