Frugalpac, an Ipswich-based sustainable packaging company, has “a global mission to decarbonise the food and drinks industry”.

Founded in 2011, the company won the Innovation Award, sponsored by University of Suffolk, at the EADT Business Awards 2023.

The Frugal Cup – which Frugalpac launched in 2019 – is said to be the world’s only recyclable paper cup. It is made from 96% recycled paper and a polyethylene (PE) liner, with the two elements easily separated during the standard recycling process.

The pandemic led Frugalpac to bring forward the launch of the Frugal Bottle, which is made from 94% recycled paperboard, uses up to 77% less plastic than a plastic bottle and is five times lighter than a normal glass bottle.

Commenting on the impact of the pandemic, Frugalpac CEO Malcolm Waugh said: “The Frugal Cup was aimed at coffee shops – and they were shut. As a young business, we needed to generate cash.

“We’ve got some great investors – and whilst they have been very kind to the business, they are looking for a return on their investment, hence the reason to accelerate the Frugal Bottle.”

Ipswich Star: The Frugal Bottle is made from 94% recycled paperboardThe Frugal Bottle is made from 94% recycled paperboard (Image: Frugalpac)
With the global wine and spirits industry as its target market, it’s fair to say the Frugal Bottle presents a massive opportunity for Frugalpac.

“In terms of the addressable market, 60% of the world’s wine is packed in a Bordeaux-shaped bottle – or a Frugal Bottle,” said Malcolm. “That represents 21 billion bottles a year. On top of that, there are probably 14 billion spirit bottles that are 70cl.

“Glass still has a position in certain areas of the market, but we are targeting the fast-moving element, which is wine that’s consumed reasonably quickly,” he added.

“If you consider that 90% of the world’s wine is consumed within 12 months of being bottled, it means 90% of those 35 billion bottles could be in a paper bottle in the future. That’s a tremendous amount of carbon being saved.”

The company will produce around 1.8 million bottles this year – with revenue likely to grow from £3.5 million to £8-9 million next year.

“We’re aiming for 0.5% market share by 2027, which is in the region of 280 million bottles,” said Malcolm. “We’re only scratching the surface of the market with our current volumes.”

Frugalpac recently announced that sustainable drinks producer and co-packer Broadland Drinks will become the UK’s largest filler of Frugal Bottles at its plant in Cawston, Norfolk.

Ipswich Star: Frugalpac CEO Malcolm WaughFrugalpac CEO Malcolm Waugh (Image: Frugalpac)
As well as selling Frugal Bottles to brand owners and ‘contract packers’ in the wines and spirits industry, Frugalpac has also started to sell its machinery to packaging companies who can then make and sell the bottles locally.

“What we’re trying to do by putting the machines as close to the filling as possible is to drive more carbon out,” said Malcolm.

“A Frugal Bottle starts life as flat paper, so it means 5,000 unassembled bottles on a pallet versus 1,000 assembled bottles. That represents a saving of four trucks on the road – so it’s really been a big focus for us.”

The judges of the Innovation Award praised Frugalpac for its “innovative thinking in overcoming early challenges and adapting the model to new solutions”.

This innovative mindset runs right through the business – and is actively encouraged at all levels.

“We’re constantly looking at the market to see what issues are being caused by incumbent packaging,” said Malcolm. “John-Paul, our product director, runs a process with his team, but we encourage everybody to come forward with thoughts and ideas.

“One of our workshop engineers has actually just come up with an idea about how we can improve the speed of the machine in a very simple way – so we’re not only looking at new products, we’re looking at enhancements to what we do today.

“That’s really how you grow and sustain a business. You can’t stand still.”

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