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This year pioneering packaging company Woolcool is celebrating a decade at the forefront of innovative packaging solutions, offering efficiency and cost-effectiveness in a sustainable and eco-friendly way. Here, in the last of four blogs, we reveal how the company continued its success – leading to major breakthroughs in sustainability, product development and even Royal recognition.

Following six years of innovation, by the start of 2016 Woolcool was making a name as one of the most inventive and forward-thinking packaging firms in the UK. Years of investment in ground-breaking research had seen the company become a leading force in the burgeoning field of sustainability. From day one, Woolcool were aware of the issues around material usage and packaging waste, looking for a way to make an impact to change this.

But by the end of the company’s first decade, growing public interest in sustainability would evolve into a world-wide movement demanding ecological change, propelling Woolcool’s years of research to the forefront of a changing packaging sector – leading to a number of awards, pioneering new products and even Royal recognition.

As 2016 began, Woolcool’s innovation was recognised by the Sentinel Business Awards, one of the biggest events of its kind in the UK, when Woolcool picked up the Science and Technology Award. It was the latest of many awards to grace their awards cabinet – and they could look forward to many, many more accolades over the coming years.

Another landmark followed when the firm achieved ISO 9001, the international standard that specifies requirements for a quality management system (QMS), and ISO 14001, the recognised standard that specifies requirements for an effective environmental management system. These two quality marks would be vital as Woolcool pressed forward into new markets and launched new products, identifying exciting new ways to benefit from the performance of natural wool as an insulator.

The Cold Chain Europe conference, held in Frankfurt Germany, was chosen as the high-profile platform for the unveiling of one such innovative product. After three years of development, the global launch of Woolcool’s LifeGuardian system caught the eye of the pharmaceutical packaging sector.

Aiming to save lives across the world, LifeGuardian exceeded World Health Organisation standards for the transportation of medicines and vaccines, meaning that temperature-sensitive medicines could be kept in optimum condition during transportation, solving a problem that has led to around 50 per cent of vaccines being unusable on arrival at their destinations.

With striking design and backed by impeccable data, LifeGuardian illustrated Woolcool’s ambition as it reached out to the pharma sector.

In 2017 Woolcool hit the awards trail again, being recognised by their business peers in the heart of England. At the Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce Business Awards, the firm was a finalist in the Environmental category, and was named Small Business of the Year.

While this award represented Woolcool’s success at a local level, the company’s worldwide profile was quickly growing – meaning a new digital platform was required to spread the word about its products and ethos around the globe.

Woolcool.com was launched to promote the benefits of natural wool as an insulator, showcasing the company’s growing range of products and the remarkable background of research that drives its innovative, award-winning approach.

It would provide a digital platform for a growing list of global clients and partners to discover the benefits of Woolcool’s products, learn about its ethos and celebrate its successes. A landmark success would soon follow.

The following year saw the biggest and most prestigious award in the company’s history – as Woolcool received Royal recognition for its years of research and development.
The Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation, one of the most prestigious and coveted accolades in UK business, was awarded to Woolcool. The Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire, Ian Dudson, made the presentation on behalf of the monarch at the firm’s base in Stone, in a celebration attended by the Woolcool team, their friends and supporters. It was recognition from the very top, providing a globally-recognised quality mark that celebrated years of dedication. Yet more was to follow, as Woolcool’s tenth anniversary year began.

Following the achievement of the Queens Award in 2018, 2019 saw a truly memorable day at the firm’s Staffordshire base when HRH the Prince of Wales visited to learn more about the work being done by Woolcool to promote the use of natural materials in packaging.

A great supporter of the UK’s wool industry, HRH was guided around the firm’s premises, meeting the whole team along with seeing everything from the testing facilities and climatic chambers to offices and assembly line.

After speaking about his admiration for Woolcool’s efforts to develop a sustainable use for natural wool, HRH unveiled a plaque to commemorate the firm’s ten years in business, applauded by the team and many of the valued clients and partners who had contributed to its growth and success.

The Prince’s comments on sustainability reflected growing global concerns over climate change and the need to develop ways to re-use, recycle materials.
When Woolcool first began promoting natural wool as a viable alternative to tradition man-made insulators, such as polystyrene, the green movement was in its infancy. A pioneer in this fledgling movement, Woolcool spent millions on research and development at a time when sustainable packaging was considered a niche corner of the larger sector.

Now, after ten years in business, that early commitment to research has placed Woolcool in the vanguard of a handful of leading ecologically-minded companies who have grown alongside the sustainability movement.

2019 saw two new launches that perfectly illustrated Woolcool’s place as a pioneering ecological packaging company.

The Circular Economy Scheme – believed to be a first for a packaging company of this kind – enables customers to return wool insulation to be cleaned and reused.
The scheme allows the ecologically-minded consumer to return their 100% wool insulated liners to Woolcool for re-use – for free. More than 7000+ stores and collection points in the CollectPlus parcel network in the UK support the project, and the company is encouraging regular customers to collect as many liners as they can, box them up and send them back, for the wool to be washed and prepared for reuse.

Even for a company with Woolcool’s long-standing commitment to green principles, the Circular Economy Scheme is a remarkable illustration of its ambition to help protect the planet.

Then saw the launch of perhaps the company’s greenest ever product, the Insulated Paper Pouch. Representing a significant step forward in the quest for the holy grail of ecologically-friendly packaging, this new pouch reduces plastic usage by more than 70%, completely eliminating the outer plastic pouch.
By using natural sheep’s wool to keep contents cool – instead of man-made insulators like polystyrene – the firm’s award-winning products already reduce plastic use by 90-95% compared to rivals.

But the Insulated Paper Pouch provides further reduction in plastic usage of over 70% when compared to their own existing products.

After ten years in business, the apparent simplicity of this ground-breaking product is actually the result of millions of pounds in research investment and years of dedication.

Fittingly, Woolcool’s first decade in business was sealed with another award win, one which recognised the friendly, supportive and community-minded ethos of the firm.

While Woolcool may now be a globally-recognised brand, the company remains at heart a family business which is renowned for nurturing a friendly and happy working environment for its team.

While founder Angela Morris and husband Keith Spilsbury are moving into a more ambassadorial role at the firm, daughters Josie and Jessica have taken over the day-to-day running of Woolcool, continuing the family tradition, the team have become family too.

At the end of 2019 Woolcool was named Best Small Family Business in the prestigious Midlands Family Business Awards, the latest accolade to recognise the firm’s ability to remain true to its roots, despite such phenomenal growth.

Woolcool is now a global brand, producing pioneering science and lauded by the business establishment as a leader in ecologically-minded innovation. It has expanded into new markets, won awards, partnered with household names and been honoured by Royal recognition.

It’s all a far cry from that ‘eureka’ moment in 2002, when Angela Morris first realised that real wool could provide a natural and sustainable alternative to man-made chilled packaging. It was a discovery that would launch the brand we know today. That sense of discovery is still the driving factor behind Woolcool, and will no doubt drive it to further achievements in its next ten years. Watch this space!