September 8th, 2021
What is Frustration-Free Packaging?
According to Amazon, Frustration-Free Packaging (FFP) is packaging that is specifically designed to be unpacked with minimal hassle while reducing and minimizing waste. Standard packaging typically uses cardboard and plastic materials in excess, which contributes to more material piling up in landfills.
To counteract this, Amazon is promoting an incentive for sellers who opt to package in an eco-friendly and efficient manner. Amazon states that packaging is “a critical component of providing a great customer experience and an important part of the sustainability mission at Amazon.”
The Frustration Free Packaging program was first launched in 2008 in an attempt to raise packaging standards for a few select brands. Since 2008, the FFP program has grown exponentially, and it is now being offered to a wider range of products on Amazon by both 1P Vendors and 3P Sellers.
Why Should Sellers and Vendors Consider Participating in the FFP Program?
Frustration-Free Packaging requirements are currently being rolled out to the majority of Sellers and Vendors. This indicates that Amazon is clearly making the program a high priority in 2021.
If Sellers or Vendors choose to ignore the FFP program, there may be penalties in the future for bulky and inefficient packaging methods. This could mean chargebacks and other repercussions that can affect your Amazon business.
We recommend jumping on board early, and taking advantage of getting product certifications - ideally before any peak sales events. In addition to participating in the FFP program, opting into programs like Amazon Vine may also be contingent upon product certification.
Other potential benefits of being a part of the Frustration-Free Packaging program include:
- A decrease in packaging and shipping costs
- Happier customers (Which can lead to better reviews!)
- A more environmentally sustainable footprint
- Increased Amazon search relevancy
- FFP messaging on product detail pages (Some customers search for products that align with their eco-conscious lifestyles, and the Climate Pledge and FFP badges are just another way to draw those customers in.)
What Are the Packaging Requirements for FFP?
There are currently three certification tiers to Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging program:
- Tier 1 - FFP (Frustration-Free Packaging)
- Tier 2 - SIOC (Ships in Own Container)
- Tier 3 - PFP (Prep-Free Packaging)
In the case that your product is larger than 18″ x 14″ x 8” and/or if it weighs more than 20 lbs., it must be designed and certified as Tier 1 (FFP) or Tier 2 (SIOC) within the program.
These are the requirements for each tier:
Tier 1 (FFP) Requirement: Easy to Open
Amazon states that to qualify as an easy-to-open package “all contents of a package must be removable within 120 seconds” and must only require minimal use of cutting tools such as scissors and/or box cutters. In addition to this, easy-to-open packages with “blister packs, plastic inserts, packaging peanuts, shredded paper, or welded clam shells” are not allowed because they use an excess of packaging materials.
Tier 1 (FFP) Requirement: Recyclable Packaging
To qualify for Tier 1 (FFP), packages must be composed of materials that are 100% curbside recyclable, and they must also be in compliance with all applicable packaging laws. Amazon states that the accepted materials are as follows: “corrugated and other paper-based materials and/or plastic components marked with SPI codes 1 (PET), 2 (HDPE), and 5 (PP).”
Amazon also states that “printing and/or treatments must not affect recyclability of the package.” Things such as twist ties or plastic bags are subject to more specific requirements outlined in Amazon’s full FFP document. Silica gel bags and plastic films that maintain product freshness are permitted.
Tier 1 & 2 (FFP) (SIOC) Requirement: Minimal Packaging
Minimal packaging is determined by Amazon’s “Box-Utilization Score,” which is a number you get by calculating the product-to-package ratio (or the volume of the product, divided by the total volume of the packaging). The Box-Utilization Score has to be “greater than 30% and 50% for fragile and non-fragile products”, to qualify for Tier 1 (FFP) and Tier 2 (SIOC).
According to Amazon, the following items qualify as fragile products:
- Glass, ceramic, porcelain, or clay materials
- Liquids or semi-liquids, and solids that can become liquid at temperatures experienced during the distribution cycle (above 70°F or 21.1°C)
- Electronics that are easily damaged if dropped from an 18 inch height without their packaging
The Product Certification Process
In order to certify products in Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging program, 1P Vendors and 3P Sellers must ensure that their product packaging passes a qualification test. This test takes place with a third-party ISTA-certified lab. Once the lab has the results, these results will be submitted to Amazon directly.
Amazon gives the following advice for preparing for the testing process: “ensure you have performed the appropriate ISTA 6-Amazon.com test method and are confident that your product will pass. According to Amazon, lab testing is only recommended as a final step. This means that you should independently verify that your products meet packaging requirements before you move onto lab testing.
After your product receives a passing test report, it can be submitted through the Contact Us portal within Vendor Central and Seller Central. Please note that products must be ready to ship immediately upon approval or they can risk losing their certification.
Amazon Now Allows Self-Testing!
Amazon announced in June 2021 that even more incentives will be offered to brands who take part in SIOC (Ships in Own Container) or FFP (Frustration Free Packaging). Products that qualify will be given an additional credit between $0.08 and $6.49 per unit received.
These new incentives apply specifically to newly certified SIOC/FFP products, and existing products that become certified as enhanced packaging between the 15-month period of October 1, 2021 through December 31, 2022.
Please note, however, that this announcement does not affect the SIOC chargeback that is currently in place. Also be aware that direct-fulfillment items are exempt from both the SIOC chargeback and this new incentive program.
Why Amazon is Offering This Incentive
In 2019, Amazon co-founded a new program called The Climate Pledge, which states that Amazon’s goal and commitment for the company is to be net-zero carbon by 2040. The FFP only further cements Amazon’s Climate Pledge goals - specifically their Shipment Zero commitment of having 50% of all their shipments be net-zero carbon by 2030.
With all of this focus on the FFP and The Climate Pledge programs, we encourage Amazon Sellers and Vendors to take advantage of the SIOC and FFP incentives. Although the FFP program may not suit every type of shipment, it is ideal for non-fragile products that weigh less than 50 pounds.
While things like security tags and plastic hangers play important roles in packaging for traditional brick-and-mortar retail establishments, these excess materials simply aren’t necessary for eCommerce packaging. By eliminating excess packaging materials and accessories, you can reduce the weight and volume of shipped products while providing a better customer experience with easy-to-open packaging that is good for them and the environment.