So the other day I ran out of Telfast (a particular type of antihistamine drug) and so I went to the chemist to get some more.

Upon finding the box I immediately realised that it was noticeably larger than my previous one.

I was surprised that a company would decide to increase the size of a their packaging without increasing the size or quantity of the product it contains. I suspect this change is to do with some brand repositioning within it’s owning company, Sanofi-Aventis, or maybe a change in where it’s packaged. But, nevertheless, such a move struck me as counterproductive, which further investigation seems to support…

After getting the new box home I took some measurements and made some calculations:

Old boxNew boxChange
Height25mm28mm+3mm (12%)
Depth55mm75mm+20mm (36%)
Volume165cm3252cm3+87cm3 (52%)

So the new box is more than 50% larger than the old one - or to put it another way, I could fit one and half of the old boxes inside the new one.

At this point you might be thinking “so what, who cares if it’s a little bigger?”. Well, let me point out the ramifications this has for shipping.

It means that if before only 12 boxes fit in a shipping box, now only 8 will fit. If a truck was full of these it would be carrying roughly two thirds the original number of boxes. This means that it would require another half full truck to make up the other third to distribute the same quantity. Or for a 1.2m x 1.2m x 1.2m pallet load the difference is between fitting about 10000 of the old size to 6700 of the new size - that’s more than 3000 fewer boxes!

This has two negative implications:

  1. shipping will cost roughly 50% more than before (assuming the shipping costs didn’t change)
  2. waste and pollution from shipping will also increase by about 50% (assuming no change to the method of shipping). This is negated a little by the decrease in overall weight due to there being less product

The amusing thing in all this is that all the extra space is taken up by air. The extra money spent in transport and the extra burden this places on the environment is a result of packaging more air.

I don’t know why they did this, but it goes to show how costly increasing package sizes by only a small amount can have.