Entrepreneur

Plastic & Polystyrene Food Packaging Is Not Ok, So This M’sian Made Eco-Friendly Versions

While Eugene Low was running a commercial printing and packaging service business back in 2016, he read up about waste pollution.

After learning about how the ever-common single-use plastics and polystyrenes were detrimental to the environment, it sparked an idea.

He decided to build a business that produced eco-friendly packaging solutions, and that business would eventually come to be known as Paper Inc.

Image Credit: Paper Inc.

While he was excited to start bringing the concept to life, funding constraints for capital held him back, thus pushing Paper Inc.’s debut to March 2019.

In the few years between coming up with the idea and making it a reality, his passion to create eco-friendly food packaging never wavered.

Starting Up

“What inspired us to start Paper Inc. is that we believed that going forward, there will be a significant demand for eco-friendly food packaging due to the current transition from single-use plastic products to more environmentally sustainable options.”

Paper Inc. was founded by Eugene and his father, who’s his mentor with his vast experience in the printing and packaging industry. Eugene has a Bachelor’s degree in accountancy and is also a registered financial planner by the Malaysian Financial Planning Council (MFPC).

From age 22 to 26, he worked as an internal auditor in a local top-tier bank. He later ventured into sales as an insurance agent and then became a financial advisor.

Image Credit: Paper Inc.

 “It may seem totally weird that a person like me who’s predominantly in the financial services industry would jump into the unknown territory of the printing and packaging industry, let alone the food packaging industry,” Eugene acknowledged.

However, this was in fact not the first time he was exposed to the industry. “My father used to operate a very successful printing and packaging business in the early 90’s, serving MNCs in the local consumer electronics market,” he revealed.

As a young boy, he used to accompany his father to the office or factory to oversee business operations, hence his interest in the industry.

Equipped with financial knowledge from his previous careers and the exposure to the printing and packaging industry by his father, Eugene was more than ready to do business with Paper Inc.

The Process

Paper Inc. is a relatively new company still struggling with funding constraints, so 50% of the manufacturing process is outsourced from local suppliers. The process starts with procuring raw materials from a local merchant.

These raw materials will then be sent to local suppliers for the first half of the manufacturing process. After that, the unfinished product is sent back to Paper Inc. for completion of the production process.

The second half of the process is described as being very hands-on by Eugene, “We only rely on local hires and myself in helping with the production.”

By doing that, Paper Inc. helps the community by opening up small-time job opportunities for housewives and other locals looking for part-time income while also giving them training.

Image Credit: Paper Inc.

In an effort to keep operating costs at a minimum, the company practices a “batch production” method where a new batch of products will only be produced when quantity runs low.

“We usually keep around 1–2 months’ worth of stocks, and replenish as and when the need arises,” Eugene stated.

Paper Inc. prides itself on being a brand that’s 100% Malaysian, though only two of its products, the Paper Lunch Boxes and Paper Food Trays, are produced by local hires.

Apart from the aforementioned products, the rest of the eco-friendly products are traded in from OEM overseas suppliers.

Eugene justified this by saying, “We would like to offer more variety to our customers at the time being, and we also don’t have sufficient capital, demand or quantity to justify in-house manufacturing.”

Shipping It Out

When asked who Paper Inc.’s customers were, Eugene replied that they served small to medium-sized F&B businesses like street food vendors, food deliveries, cafés and restaurants.

While business within the Klang Valley is thriving, he believes that there remains a big gap between the demand and supply of eco-friendly food packaging products.

“Eco-friendly food packaging supplies are not easily accessible by F&B businesses in the other states, outside of Klang Valley.

Many resellers, traders and wholesalers of such supplies still favour plastic over eco-friendly packaging due to pricing advantages.

It’s a well-known fact that it costs significantly more to create a paper lunch box compared to a Polypropylene (PP)-based lunch box.”

Image Credit: Paper Inc.

Due to the nature of Paper Inc.’s products being bulky, the company is looking for ways to reduce the logistics cost for customers so that supply to areas outside Klang Valley remains an option.

“Alternatively, we might even work with resellers and traders in those regions to help distribute our products,” Eugene added.

Paper Inc. is positive that eco-friendly packaging will become the norm in the future as Eugene has noticed that customers are more receptive in embracing change and curbing plastic waste pollution by changing their habits, but further awareness remains important.

“I believe that as a food packaging supplies business, we owe it to ourselves to educate our customers on how using eco-friendly packaging products can increase their experience.”

Wrapping It Up

Some of the main challenges Paper Inc. still faces are the sourcing of specialised machinery to manufacture their products in Malaysia and the sourcing of suitable raw materials.

The preferred raw materials usually cost three to four times the price of conventional plastic materials and are not easily available in Malaysia.

This results in Paper Inc. resorting to direct importing of the materials from overseas suppliers.

“We would say being resourceful is the only way we could think of in overcoming the challenges faced. It has since made us more resilient to changes, in a way,” Eugene said.

Paper Inc. is moving forward with plans to achieve a higher sales turnover that will enable them to optimise production costs, ultimately making their products more affordable and available to the public.

Image Credit: Paper Inc.

They’re in the midst of developing a new product to supplement the existing range of products they carry as well.

The plan is to provide F&B businesses with customised food trays and lunch boxes without requiring them to commit to a high minimum of order quantity.

At the moment, they’re finalising the details on the pricing and quantity of this service they hope to provide.

All of Paper Inc.’s efforts thus far contribute towards the company’s ultimate goal: To be an established brand for food packaging supplies in the food-service industry in Malaysia and be able to distribute its products to the rest of the world.

  • Find out more about Paper Inc. here.

 

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