E-Commerce

COLD AS ICE: HOW A NEW PACKAGING SOLUTION MADE A NEW MARKET

E-commerce entrepreneurs who spot supply chain opportunities can go from players to game-changers. Here’s how DHL helped Chillistick break the ice and chisel out a new market by solving a long-standing cold chain packaging problem. 

Discovering the tip of the (dry) iceberg

Mike Ashe and Chris Buchanan have always loved the lab ...

Mike Ashe and Chris Buchanan have always loved the lab. The two chemical engineers have spent countless hours running experiments, testing processes, and solving problems throughout their careers. In 2007, they noticed a logistics problem that couldn’t be solved with beakers and Bunsen burners. It inspired them to develop a new packaging solution and found Chillistick, which today is the UK’s biggest independent dry ice supplier.

What was that problem? An efficient packaging solution for shipping and transporting dry ice.

Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide, which freezes at a much lower point than water (-78°C, -109°F). Getting dry ice from A to B at subzero temperatures is no minor challenge, despite the existence of cold chain logistics. If a delivery is late, half of the product could have evaporated by the time it arrives.

Mike and Chris love a good challenge and spotted an opportunity to use their lab expertise to solve this problem. A new startup was born – and within four years, their company was one of the largest suppliers in the UK.

Chillistick - UK’s leading dry ice manufacturer & supplier

60,000

Kilograms weekly production capacity

15,000

deliveries per year nationwide in the UK

2.5

Kilograms smallest dry ice pack

... what new products could they design? ...

Breaking the ice: A new logistics solution

Because it’s so difficult to ship, dry ice was traditionally only sold in bulk and was not readily available in smaller amounts. This was a gap in the market that Mike and Chris were sure they could fill.

The main problem was in the packaging, so the duo went to work to develop a customized system for shipping dry ice. To ensure their packaging would be safe for both national and international supply chains, they worked closely with DHL to develop a new packaging solution that followed the company’s safety guidelines.

“It sounds simple, to effectively put it in a smaller box,” says Mike Ashe. “But it was a very complicated process.”

Chillistick’s first low-volume customer shipped 5-kilogram packages for R&D purposes. Since shipping to that first customer, the dry ice supplier has grown exponentially – and now makes 15,000 deliveries per year, ranging from multi-ton industrial shipments to small dry ice packs weighing 2.5 kilograms.

Developing their packaging solution opened the door to a brand new market. The success inspired Mike and Chris to return to the lab and focus on innovation. Now that they could safely transport small quantities of dry ice, what new products could they design? It wasn’t long before they began producing a range of patented products.

Mike and Chris’ return to the lab resulted in “The Chillistick”.

Chiseling out a new market: The Chillistick is born

Mike and Chris’ return to the lab resulted in "The Chillistick" – a device that allows people to use dry ice safely in drinks and cocktails. It is filled with dry ice and then lowered into drinks, where it immediately begins to bubble, creating a thick, fascinating water fog. The white fog is composed of tiny droplets of water – like mist that forms in nature. A patented safety value, and the company’s food-grade dry ice, ensure the product’s safety.

The Chillistick was initially developed for a major spirits brand that wanted a fog effect for a marketing campaign. After the success of that campaign, the sky was the limit, and the company turned its attention toward other products that made use of the impressive effects of dry ice. Creating drama and fun became the main selling point.

The founders and forever problem-solvers Chris and Mike have had their heads in the clouds ever since. Chillistick now offers a range of dry ice products – from ‘smoking’ shot glasses and champagne buckets, to science experiment kits for schools, to home party kits for Halloween, kid’s parties, and other occasions.

After developing a new packaging solution for transporting small quantities of dry ice, the Chillistick was the tip of yet another (dry) iceberg.

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