The Smarter Route to Walmart Shelves is Through Sustainable Packaging

 Your new brand has been greenlit for Walmart!  As a first-time supplier to the mega-retail giant, you’ve done all the right things to sell your brand to the Walmart power buyers.  And that takes marketing smarts. 


But now you need packaging smarts. How do you package your product to fast-track its route to Walmart’s store shelves, fulfillment centers…and ultimately into the hands of savvy shoppers?

Great question because the more you know about Walmart’s packaging principles and requirements – the faster your brand will be ready for the big time.

As you may know, shoppers are ‘going green’ with their purchasing decisions. And in this area, Walmart is taking the lead not only for sustainable packaging, but up and down their supply chain. The good news is that Walmart has provided a treasure trove of information to help you every step of the way. This blog will serve as a primer and handy resource to find additional information on the ‘nice-to-haves’ and ‘gotta-haves’ in streamlining your Walmart packaging development.

Walmart’s Smarter Packaging

How did Walmart’s sustainability program start? In 2016, they introduced their Sustainable Packaging Playbook, focusing on three key pillars for its in-store retail operations—packaging optimization, increased recycling, and sustainable sourcing. The plan strongly encourages suppliers to use the How2Recycle label from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC). But here’s the eye-opening part for suppliers: Walmart’s push into smarter packaging was prompted by some surprising data…two-thirds of consumers don’t recycle empty packages unless there are printed instructions.

And according to Perception Research Services, more shoppers state they like to choose eco-friendly packaging compared to 2010 (36% vs 28%). Half of the shoppers polled said they would be willing to pay more for green packaging, which was especially true of shoppers under the age of 40.

Green packaging tells a powerful story; the branding message and how customers can partner with you for reducing waste and pollution.

And – it has a competitive edge!

Project Gigaton: Downsizing the Carbon Footprint

In 2017, Walmart took their sustainability packaging one step further to help lower greenhouse emissions. Project Gigaton aims to reduce one gigaton of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. That is equivalent to taking 211 million passenger vehicles off of U.S. roads for a year. The big push will help suppliers use less energy going forward. In a nutshell, less packaging translates into less transit time, less energy being used and ultimately lowered greenhouse emissions.  Many suppliers are already seeing cost savings via Project Gigaton simply by switching to local packaging manufacturers.

Project Gigaton isn’t mandatory as of yet. However, there is a strong business case to be made here. Brand owners can realize cost reductions, efficiency and customer loyalty…especially among those power-shopping millennials.

The Smarter Strategy: The Walmart Sustainable Packaging Playbook

Whether your new brand is destined for the bricks-and-mortar or digital store shelf – or both – a good place to start is with the Playbook. This is a valuable overview for packaging design, sourcing materials and recycling.

Optimize Design:

  • Protect the product
  • Reduce materials

Source Sustainably:

  • Maximize recycled and sustainably sourced renewable content
  • Identify harmful chemicals have been reduced, removed or restricted

Support recycling:

  • Package materials and form designed for recycling
  • Communicate recycling to consumers

Please note that the Playbook provides practical guidelines and best practices that are recommended – but not required. Walmart does however mandate that all its private brand suppliers be in compliance with local, state and federal laws.

The Smarter Package: Good for the Environment – Good for Business

The Walmart Supplier and Packaging Label Manual is where gotta-haves meet nice-to-haves. Although primarily focused on’s direct-to-consumer packaging recommendations, there are some mandatory requirements in this market. For example, requires products to pass an ISTA (International Safe Transit Association) transit test. And all suppliers – online and in-store –  are required to use pooled pallets with GMA Grade A specs.

The manual states that product and package quality does not need to be compromised for best results. You can find a comprehensive list of general packaging principles, preferred materials and recommendations/requirements for corrugated boxes (pages 4-7).

Many companies partner with Rohrer to ensure their packaging is compliant with Walmart’s specifications. In particular, our capabilities include:

  • FSC certified paperboard, paper & process
  • SmartCycle and Eco-Therm, with up to 100% post-consumer recycled PET

A Smarter Way to Merchandise

Thinking about using Walmart’s in-store merchandising services? Well, there’s a big change to report! Starting early this year, Walmart’s merchandising services program will only allow five approved companies to manage supplier displays in more than 4,600 stores nationwide. According to Walmart’s leadership, they are standardizing the merchandising activity that supports its “one best way” agenda. The new initiative will help drive sales, leverage costs and increase efficiencies that can improve shopper experiences. The ‘thumbs-up’ merchandising companies include: Anderson Merchandisers, Crossmark, Acosta, Premium and SAS Retail Services.

Take the Smarter Route

There’s smart…and smarter when it comes to packaging your new brand for Walmart. And going green goes above and beyond your eco-commitment – it can help sharpen your competitive edge. So, take the smarter route with Walmart’s packaging sustainability, and fast track your new brand’s success.

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