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SUSTAINABLE IN DESIGN | FLEXI-HEX

Travelling with a surfboard can be a nightmare. Not only are we slapped with excess baggage fee's, but when we arrive at our destination we nervously open our bags to assess what potential damage has been inflicted upon our beloved crafts.

With no one else seemingly stepping up to the play, the Cornish based design firm and brothers 'Boex' took it upon themselves to address the issue. After some thorough R&D and serious stress testing, Flexi-Hex was born. Sustainable in approach and built to endure, we can now see the safe passage of our quivers and gin bottles alike.

We caught up with the team at their Cornwall offices, a stone's throw from the sea.

Tell us about Boex.

We are an independent design studio with a unique collaborative approach with our clients. Flexible, innovative and creative. We have worked in within commercial and retail interiors, bars and restaurants. The other side of Boex is healthcare and developing spaces within hospitals. Looking at an inclusive design which tackles the stigma around mental healthcare, working on making comfortable, appealing spaces. It’s fascinating.

How did Flexi-hex come to be? 
I initially came up with the idea of the packaging product by seeing the way fruit was packaged in supermarkets ironically in foam net sleeves. I thought if you can develop a bespoke packaging solution for fruit, there must be a solution for packaging surfboards, which come in all shapes and sizes. So we got to work, looking at materials testing and prototypes. We tested lots of materials, but the versatility recyclability of cardboard made it an obvious choice.

We launched in January – so we’re coming up to our first year. It’s been a rollercoaster and a huge learning curve. We initially had a huge response that instantly put us onto a global stage. We were having 70-80 emails coming through a day and we were trying to deal with that.

Does packaging excite you?
I have always had an interest in packaging, folding and manipulating paper, to change flimsy cardboard into a protective product. Packaging that solves a problem; there’s something very tangible about that. My design background is in furniture and interiors so there are similarities in the design process.

What are the stats? The number of boards in transit per annum?
• Global market for boardsports is forecast to reach $19 billion by 2020.
• 400,000 surfboards sold annually.
• Surfing contributes between £1 billion and £1.8 billion per year spread between the regions and counties of the UK.

Eliminating plastic from the process; what are the structural benefits of using Flexi-Hex?
Honeycomb is an innately strong shape, giving a very rigid yet flexible form. When an impact happens to the material, the honeycomb material deforms, defusing the knock into the paper and protecting the board. The principle of the product is to add additional protection to surfboards in the packaging process to replace existing materials like bubble wrap. It's a paper product so has limits to the number of uses, but when it starts to break down, the product can just be added to a compost heap or recycled.

What has the journey been like bringing a new product to market?
More challenging that it initially looks! The difficulty is that the product and business is on a global scale, and operated by four people in Cornwall.  The nature and logistics of moving product has been challenging and a constant learning curve dealing with distributors, freight companies, import taxes, manufacturers and  Intellectual Property rights. All aspects of the business have to be constantly assessed and adapted and evolve as the business grows. We are currently selling the product in Europe, Australia, US, Israel, Russia and in conversation with people in South Africa, New Zealand, South Korea, South America.

And venturing into wider packaging application?
The product is very versatile, it can work across a number of market sectors which we are starting to explore. We have just launched a Flexi-Hex Bottle range working closely with Tinkture gin to develop the product. We are also working with furniture and lighting companies including Tom Raffield who require flexible and adaptable solutions for their product lines. We also see wider applications in the industrial sector.

Learn more of the adaptable plastic free packaging here. Now stocked in all Finisterre stores.