Sustainable Futures: Getting to Know Flexi-Hex

Earlier in 2021, Krī Skincare became one of the first cosmetics brands to adopt Flexi-Hex's eco-friendly protective sleeves for our delivery packaging. 

These clever reusable honeycomb sleeves protect our glass bottles and jars whilst in transit to you. They are strong enough to ensure no breakages, and they've helped us fulfil our goal of absolutely no single-use cartons or plastic in our delivery boxes. We've been thrilled with the overwhelming feedback from our customers since making this switch. 

Kri Skincare delivery packaging

When delivery packaging is such an important part of the customer experience and a fundamental part of our sustainability promise, we like to get to know our supply chain partners. We met with Polly Hughes from Flexi-Hex to learn more about this Cornwall-based business.

Can you tell us about the Flexi-Hex team?

Flexi-Hex was founded by Will and Sam Boex, twin brothers and avid surfers from Cornwall. Sam and Will are what’s known as mirror twins which means their brains are dominant on opposite sides and therefore their skillsets complement each other almost perfectly. Will oversees everything operations and finance, while Sam leads the creative side of things including product research and development. Since launching in January 2018, Flexi-Hex has grown to a team of 15 with new roles in sales, marketing, accounts and supply chain. We value work-life balance, getting outdoors, being active and protecting our environment. You’ll often find us in the sea for a quick swim or surf over lunch – the perfect way to break up the workday!

How did the idea for Flexi-Hex and Flexi-Hex Air come about, and what was it like turning those concepts into a reality?

Flexi-Hex was born out of a love for the sea and a desire to design a packaging solution that doesn’t persist in the environment and pollute the ocean. Sam and Will were concerned with the amount of plastic pollution they noticed in the seas, both at home in Cornwall and across the world. A poor experience buying surfboards online led them to find a sustainable alternative to bubble wrap that was 100% plastic-free, recyclable and compostable.

The original design inspiration came from an apple! Sam realised that if you can package fruit of all different shapes and sizes using a simple mesh sleeve then you must be able to apply a similar concept to surfboards. So, he and Will started doing some serious research and experimenting with different materials until they came across a paper honeycomb. After playing around with ideas and prototypes, they developed a paper honeycomb sleeve that ended up fitting perfectly around snow and surfboards.

Following a successful launch within the boardsports industry, we quickly realised the adaptability of the sleeve and how it could be applied across a range of industries including bottles, commercial and homeware. The UK drinks market remains our biggest customer, generating around 80% of our revenue. 

Flexi-Hex Air (used by Krī Skincare) is our most recent product which launched in December 2020 and was designed with cosmetics in mind. Made in partnership with Seaman Paper, these smaller, lighter sleeves are made from FSC certified tissue paper which makes them ideal for protecting smaller fragile goods like skincare products and electronics.

Kri Skincare delivery packaging

The business seems to have a large focus on sustainability and a desire to innovate to protect the planet. Where does this passion come from, and what efforts are being made by Flexi-Hex to 'steward the earth'?

As a company, we want to tread lightly. We are lucky to have an environmentally conscious and engaged team that all share a passion for the outdoors and a desire to protect it. Over the summer, we organised a team beach clean at one of our local beaches in Cornwall – something we are hoping to do every few months. We do also understand that sustainability is not just about tackling the plastic problem. As a proud Planet Mark member, we are committed to measuring and reducing our carbon emissions by 5% or more year on year. Where we cannot make reductions, we offset with a company called Mossy Earth who also run rewilding projects to encourage ecological growth and biodiversity. We will continue to use our social channels as a platform to raise awareness about the plastic problem, encourage action and drive positive change.

Why did you choose FSC certified paper as the material for Flexi-Hex?

All Flexi-Hex products are made from either recycled paper or FSC certified paper. Recycled paper is the greenest option as it uses 70% less energy and water than virgin paper and lower carbon emissions. Where we cannot use recycled paper, we use FSC certified paper. The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label ensures that the materials we use to make our packaging have been harvested in an environmentally friendly and socially responsible manner from FSC forests that are committed to protecting the environment, wildlife and the people who live and work in them. They also ensure that no more wood is cut down than the forest can reproduce.

Why do you think it is important to reduce the use of plastics in packaging, and what effect do you think it would have if every business opted for an alternative like Flexi-Hex?

Plastic pollution not only poses huge problems to our oceans and marine life, but it also plays a significant role in climate change. Given that packaging contributes to 40% of global plastic production, it’s not surprising that single-use plastic packaging accounts for nearly half the plastic waste found in nature. In fact, a shocking 32% of the 78 million tonnes of plastic packaging produced annually is left to flow into our oceans – the equivalent of pouring one huge truckload of plastic into the ocean every minute. As e-commerce continues to grow, this rate isn’t looking to slow, with an expectation of this increasing to two truckloads per minute by 2030, and four per minute by 2050. In line with these statistics, we believe that businesses switching to plastic-free packaging would significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste ending up in our environment, protecting our marine life and slowing down the effects of climate change.

Kri Skincare delivery packaging

Flexi-Hex has received a lot of awards and grants, including investment from Sky Ocean Ventures and Innovate UK. How much has this helped you as a business, and how important is it for government and visible corporations (like Sky) to support sustainable enterprises?

The backing from Sky and Innovate UK has provided us with a huge opportunity to refine and develop our product range (especially for the e-commerce bottle industry), and explore opportunities for replacing plastic packaging in other industries including cosmetics and electronics. It has also given us an incredible platform to raise awareness of the huge plastic problem, how that affects our oceans and the part that packaging waste plays in it.

We think that government and visible corporations supporting sustainable start-ups is incredibly important for protecting our planet. Having an endorsement from companies like Sky builds credibility, increases brand awareness and enables young brands to get their sustainable solutions to market and in front of a global audience much quicker than without it.

(Photo credits: Ali Green / Flexi-Hex)

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