A Logistically Challenged Holiday

This isn’t exactly topical, but we ration our son’s chocolate intake, and as a result we’re only now coming to the end of our Easter eggs. Some of the packaging of the very last one is pictured here…

Despicable egg packaging

Despicable photobomb from the chocolate-obsessed one.

In a sense, we saved the best for last, because minions are awesome. Hard-hearted indeed is the person who hasn’t fallen for Gru’s army of fireplug-sized, banana-hued felons… but it seems that their latest caper pits them against the environment.

Any Easter egg is an appallingly inefficient way to supply chocolate: they’re fragile, and the bulk of a hollow egg is far greater than it needs to be, considering the amount of chocolate supplied. Also, they’re… well… egg-shaped. That means they don’t stack properly, so the packaging typically involves an outer layer that is a cuboid. That introduces another lot of fresh air, and a need for some kind of protective spacer to hold an egg-shaped egg in a box-shaped box. For this, vacuum-formed plastic seems to be the solution of choice. This is disappointing because a few years ago plastics seemed to be disappearing from this kind of packaging. Now they’re returning, like a bad sequel.

Easter egg box boasting recyclability

For a time, it seemed that Easter egg boxes were all going biodegradable.

I wrote about the evils of mixed-materials packaging in ‘Meet the Monstrous Hybrid’, and Easter eggs got a mention in ‘What has packaging ever done for us?’ – both back in August 2014.

What packaging does is a key question here. Obviously, chocolate would be much easier to transport and keep fresh if it was moulded into a slab, but we have to bear in mind that an Easter egg is not a chocolate bar. The purpose of the product is not to deliver sugar, milk powder, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, lactose, emulsifier and flavourings in a convenient way: the purpose of an Easter egg is to dress up those ingredients in a way that makes the recipient know that you love them. It’s basically a hug, expressed through the medium of cholesterol.

Small foil-wrapped egg, with its carton in the background

What we need, obviously, is a squarer egg.

People who study logistics might observe that 85mm x 205mm x 240mm is an awful lot of space for a food product of questionable nutritional value, and with a net weight of 55g… but in a sense it doesn’t matter: if the customer is willing to pay a premium that covers the increased cost of transportation and storage, plus the retailer’s increased costs due to shelf space requirements, the product is commercially viable. In effect, the movie tie-in and elaborate shelf presence of this otherwise unbranded Easter egg can be considered to be its advertising budget: the chocolate itself is undifferentiated.

This particular package is made larger, in part, by the presence of a keepsake tin, and that’s a nice touch because it’s the only part of the product that’s likely to outlive the packaging it came in. It was supplied with a collection of magnets… in a cellophane envelope. Inside the tin. Inside the plastic spacer, inside the cardboard box…

Want redundant packaging? Look no further than Bonbon Buddies of Oakdale Business Park, Blackwood, South Wales… although some of the waste shown at Overpackaging.com appears to be worse.

We really enjoyed playing with the little minion: it’s like Mr Potato Head, only far less disturbing. (Seriously: that toy creeps me out.) It’s a shame that so much waste had to be involved, though.

In fact, it’s more than just a shame: it’s despicable.

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3 thoughts on “A Logistically Challenged Holiday

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