"The search for resource-efficient, renewable, recyclable or biodegradable new materials is a strategy fully in line with real global demand. We are therefore investing heavily to develop eco-designed and eco-sourced products," explains Alexandre Escarra, CEO.

To this end, the company has carried out an in-depth analysis on the supply of alternative materials capable of meeting demands for sustainability, without however necessarily giving up the aesthetic and industrial advantages offered by the most used do date materials.

Traditional and innovative materials

New materials using natural fibres from renewable non-petroleum resources are now affordable and increasingly used in the gift-with-purchase sector. This is the case with bamboo or rice fibres, or fabrics made from oyster shells that The Gift Lab can provide to its customers.

These innovations are complemented by the revival of long-used renewable plant fibres, but which had fallen in oblivion, like flax, jute, hemp fibres, or even ramie, one of the world’s oldest fibre, made from nettles stems, a plant that grows, with no need for irrigation or pesticides!

"As we are committing to source and produce as closely as possible to our customers, we have also listed the traceability of each material and we provide the corresponding certifications," claims the company.

In addition, vegetable alternatives have multiplied. Piñatex, made from pineapple leaves, "Apple Leather", made of apple cores and skins discarded from the food industry, the Bananatex fibre, the Vegea leather, originating from the fermentation of grape pomace, or the Muskin, obtained from the cap of the mushroom Phellinus ellipsoideus, are the best-known illustrations of the sector’s transformation.

However, these materials remain expensive. While significant demand from the fashion sector should allow a more common use in the future, their production is often limited to small runs and specific retail projects.

Recycled or upcycled materials

For gift-with-purchase projects, more affordable solutions also offer significant ecological benefits. " Paptic , for instance, stands as a biobased alternative to plastic for many designs and packaging," explains The Gift Lab. Soft to the touch, made from wood fibres, it can be sewn, zipped, welded, and can be decorated with stamping, embossing and varnishing techniques. It is both biodegradable and recyclable!

More traditional, R-PET is now recognized and valued for its flexibility and affordable price. Another recycled plastic, R-PVB (recycled PVB) is used as a substitute to PU for the production of flexible films replacing leather.

Alternatives to plastic polybags, made from sugar cane, seaweed or corn starch, can also help mitigating the impact of overwrapping in this industry.

"Some technologies are indeed still in their infancy, but today we can rely on a range of materials that allow offering many sustainable solutions at a very competitive cost. In particular, we can make pouches, from recycled materials, equipped with zips, the teeth and stoppers of which are in R-PET and the ribbon in a natural or bio-based material," emphasizes Alexandre Escarra. "For the boxes, we can also make wedges made of mushroom or hemp fibres, or offer heat-soluble or biodegradable sachets and bags, based on cassava starch, corn starch or algae."

The Gift Lab currently employs around ten people and plans to close 2020 in progress, with a turnover of between 6 and 7 million euros. Around 60% of sales go to the fashion sector and 40% to the beauty market. Certified Silver by EcoVadis, the Company has a purchasing office in Shenzen, China, and a sales office is being opened in New York and should be operational soon.