The world is crying out for genuinely sustainable alternatives to manmade plastic packaging, so the winning of a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation by Staffordshire company Woolcool demonstrates the very real credibility of using a natural, renewable packaging resource – sheeps wool.
First conceived by founder and CEO Angela Morris in 2001, Woolcool is a superior insulated packaging solution for the transportation of temperature-sensitive goods for the food and pharmaceutical sectors.
“We are delighted and proud to have achieved the Queen’s Award in recognition of the commitment and tenacity of the Woolcool team, and the continued support of suppliers and friends. On a wider platform this award will reinforce the vital role that natural materials can play in meeting the environmental challenges that face the planet both now and, in the future,” said Angela.
The company’s philosophy is based around the concept of Woolcool being ‘created by nature, driven by science’. As a result, more than £1 million has been invested in research and development – supported by three rounds of Government funding via Innovate UK.
“We’ve invested heavily in R&D and worked with a number of UK universities to analyse how wool works at microscopic level, so we can give our clients detailed scientific information and data to substantiate the product’s superior performance. Woolcool is a natural product – but with real scientific substance behind it,” said Woolcool MD Josie Morris
Not only is wool renewable and sustainable, it is a naturally superior insulator. Available in abundance as a by-product of rearing sheep, wool insulation is totally compostable and biodegradable, releasing valuable nitrates back into the soil. Independent tests consistently prove that Woolcool outperforms conventional insulated packaging on every level.
“Rigorous testing to international industry standards in our own environmental chambers, supported by independent trials, consistently proves that wool fibres are effective at absorbing moisture from the air, which minimises humidity and condensation to maintain stable temperatures,” said Ms Morris.
“Proven to keep deliveries of chilled, ambient or frozen food products at the correct and safe temperature for at least 24 hours and in many cases, much longer, Woolcool has also been independently verified to maintain temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals, such as life-saving vaccines, within critical distribution temperature ranges for over 120 hours.”
During the last five years Woolcool has grown significantly, in line with the booming growth of the online food sector, supplying pioneering customers such as Abel & Cole, Fortnum & Mason and more recently Unilever Foods and John Lewis.
A new warehouse in Stone, Staffordshire was opened in 2015 and starting with just 8, the company now numbers 40 employees.
Woolcool is now expanding into the global pharmaceutical sector, working with Fortune 500 companies such as Johnson & Johnson, GSK and Henry Schein Inc. to provide a sustainable, high performance insulated packaging solution to the problem of vaccine and medicine wastage often caused by temperature control failings in manmade plastic packaging.
“We are a family business with ambition to grow and develop in Staffordshire bringing new jobs to the county; the Woolcool culture and ethos means that we have a strong corporate culture of local collaboration and a community mentality,” said Ms Morris.
“Woolcool has ambitious growth plans over the next five years and we intend to develop the product further and exploit other market sectors. Over the course of the last ten years we have developed considerable expertise in the temperature-controlled market so that, rather than just offering a product, we can also provide clients with a service incorporating our packaging design expertise and advice, enabling us to work with partners in a collaborative approach.”
Under the global spotlight of packaging waste scrutiny and as more and more businesses come under pressure to meet increasingly stringent UK, EU and international packaging legislation, Woolcool’s reusable, recyclable and compostable products make a significant contribution towards waste reduction compliance and the circular economy.
Many thousands of tonnes of non-biodegradable plastic packaging waste have been saved from landfill by UK customers switching to Woolcool. Just in the last year alone, Woolcool has prevented the equivalent of 75 Olympic sized swimming pools full of polystyrene from going to landfill.