Back in December of 2019, Hasbro announced that they would begin phasing out plastics from all new toy and game packaging across its portfolio of brands. Their goal was to eliminate virtually all plastic components, including polybags, elastic bands, shrink wrap, window sheets and blister packs from packaging for new products by the end of 2022.
This self-initiated mandate was considered a bold move by the toy industry. Hasbro’s late Chairman and CEO, Brian Goldner stated at the time, ”Removing plastic from our packaging is the latest advancement in our more than decade-long journey to create a more sustainable future for our business and our world. We have an experienced, cross-functional team in place to manage the complexity of this undertaking and will look to actively engage employees, customers and partners as we continue to innovate and drive progress as a leader in sustainability.”
Shortly after Hasbro began leading the charge for plastic-free packaging, many of our toy industry clients began following suit. Given our structural design strategy expertise, we were engaged by Hasbro and other toy companies to help them re-think their approach to package design with a plastic-free mindset. The challenge: how to continue capturing consumers’ attention without blisters and acetate windows? In a blog post back in 2021, I outlined our philosophies and approach to plastic-free structure design strategy, as well as my predictions on how the toy industry might collectively address this challenge. And, in 2022, I wrote another post on Hasbro’s innovative approach to the plastic-free closed box experience.
Hasbro reacts to feedback from a segment of their target audience
However, earlier this month, Hasbro announced that it will be re-introducing windows and blisters to select packaging across their brand portfolio. Wait… what?
Yes. The toy giant who pioneered the path to plastic-free sustainability has reacted to consumer feedback, particularly that of collectors, to bring back the plastic. And they’re giving them exactly what they want. But, not to worry. Hasbro isn’t sacrificing sustainability to appease this segment of their target audience.
In an email announcement, Hasbro stated, “We wanted to share an update on packaging for Hasbro’s 6-inch-scale figures. Based on your feedback, we will be re-introducing windows and blisters to our 6-inch fan figures beginning later this year, into 2024 for select products across our portfolio of brands, including G.I. Joe Classified, Power Rangers Lightning Collection, Star Wars: The Black Series and Marvel Legends. This will eventually expand to all new 6-inch figure releases.
The new windows and blisters will be made from bio PET or recycled PET helping us achieve our priority of meeting our fans’ expectations for extraordinary packaging and superior design while still developing packaging that minimizes waste and the use of virgin plastic.”
Consumer feedback and declining sales may have been the catalyst to this recent decision to re-introduce plastic components to their packaging. But, retailers have also chimed in with their own concerns about plastic-free packaging, particularly with regard to theft and “figure swapping” returns.
The point of view of a package designer and action figure collector
Speaking strictly from the point of view of a collector, I’ve been disappointed by the move from blister carded and window boxed packaging to closed box packaging for collectible action figures. As collectors, we want to be able to clearly see and display our action figures within the package. As a package design professional who has been developing action figure packaging for more than three decades, I am completely on-board with sustainability, but I miss being able to create innovative, dynamic structures that leverage blister material as an integral component of the package design. Uniquely-shaped blisters give us the ability to tell the brand story and further differentiate the brand from the competitive offering. What we can achieve through a combination of paperboard and blister components, if well-conceived, also adds value to packaging, which truly resonates with collectors.
What are your thoughts on Hasbro’s reintroduction of plastic to the packaging of select product lines across their brand portfolio? Is this a good move by the toy manufacturer?
How do you feel about plastic-free packaging now that it’s prevalent in the toy aisles at mass retail? Are you ok with it? Or, does it feel like a considerable compromise?