We're all indebted to Ruth Moushabeck for her determinaton to widen our choice of flower sleeve. The news has already been welcomed very widely on our Facebook group and here, in Ruth's words, is the story so far ...
"I am very happy to announce that for the first time, high quality British-made biodegradable paper flower sleeves, manufactured in Norwich, will be available in less than two weeks! A huge thank you to FFTF members who offered feedback and support.
It has been a source of much frustration that biodegradable flower sleeves have not been available in the UK. Co-chair of FFTF, Paula Baxter said: “The availability of biodegradable sleeves has popped up on flower forums as long as I've been growing flowers with no real solution”. Single use plastic sleeves are standard in the flower industry and it always jarred to put our beautiful, natural bouquets in plastic. Plastic and flowers just don’t belong together!
In June of 2016 a thread on paper flower sleeves started on the FFTF Facebook Group. We came to the conclusion that the only solution was to import some from the USA – but then I just became angry and thought “no! They SHOULD be manufactured in the UK. Our flowers are grown locally, why do we have to fly in sleeves?” I started emailing and phoning paper companies, printers, eco-product companies but without much result. Then I received an email from Sarah Smith who has worked for a paper company for 20 years and who is starting a new venture of her own in Norwich: dynamicprint.co.uk. She is very keen on protecting the environment, completely understood the need for our sleeves and had all the industry knowledge and contacts I was missing. We needed a company to die cut the paper and another to glue the sleeves and finish them. We sent samples of imported sleeves and plastic to Andy, the designer, and he made samples by hand. After much discussion, surveys to FFTF members, an enjoyable afternoon of testing with Cel Robinson of Forever Green Flower Company (who wraps approximately 2,700 bouquets per season), and lots of tweaking, we came up with two designs, and three sleeves.
The original plan was to make them out of 70 gsm (grams per square metre) kraft paper. This is the most common weight and it would make the sleeves cheaper. I had impressed on the manufacturer the need to keep the price as low as possible. However, the samples Cel and I tested were made with 90gsm and Cel and I both preferred the heavier paper. I tried out a Facebook survey and was quite surprised (and pleased) by the result. The vote for the higher quality paper was unanimous – even at a higher price!
There were other decisions to be made: seam on the back or side (side), Shiny side inside or out (inside), size of lower opening (10cm), top opening straight or curved one side (curved).
I looked around my house and studio and realized that 20,000 flower sleeves would not fit. I also realised that I did not have the time or skills to process orders and ship them out. I wanted to make it as simple and quick as possible for people to buy the sleeves. and took on board the difficulties faced by the FFTF heroes who had organized bulk orders previously. Providentially, my daughter, Maha, and her Husband, Harri, work together in their business, CHC Digital, which specialises in website design and development, SEO and social media marketing.
From the marketing workshop I did at the AGM in Birmingham with Claire Brown, I still had her words “you need to be able to buy items with no more than two clicks” embedded in my mind, so the website is very simple.
I found a company in Norwich near the manufacturers that quoted for fulfillment. They have a brilliant system and will pick, pack and ship far more efficiently and for far less than I could.
Then there were SKUs (stock keeping units) and barcodes to learn about, and packaging to think about. I’ve often had the experience of ordering some eco-friendly product online only to have it arrived over-packaged in very non-eco friendly packaging.
As I write this, the totally biodegradable and recyclable flower sleeves are being made, and should be ready in less than two weeks! As soon as the website is live I will post it on this website and on the Facebook group page. In the meantime, If you have any questions, please email me.