How to buy packaging? – a simple question with a complex answer. In this four part series, I will do my best to help answer this question with as much relevant detail as I can, given that every person’s situation will be somewhat different. In this first part we will be deciding what type, style, and size of packaging you will be needing. Then, we will be gathering resources to help you communicate your packaging requirements to potential vendors. In an effort to prevent this set of articles from being too long and overwhelming, I’ve included links to some of my other articles throughout where you can read more in-depth about the specifics of what I am discussing here.
What Type of Packaging Do You Need?
Once you know what type of packaging you need, the whole process of how to buy packaging truly begins. You may or may not have an idea of what type of packaging you need. A good place to start is with your competitors (if you have any).
What are your competitors using?
Is it conceivable to use other types of packaging? For example, if your competitors are using poly bags, could you use a box instead? There could be distinct advantages (or possibly disadvantages) in opting for a packaging type that is not the norm – things to consider are:
- Will this packaging degrade or improve product perception in the eyes of the consumer?
- Will this packaging protect your product more, or less?
- Will this packaging be less expensive or more expensive?
- Will this packaging cause your product to be more or less difficult or costly to ship?
- Will this packaging be consistent with your brand’s social values and environmental impact (if applicable)
I’ve seen companies decide to go against the grain and choose alternate packaging for their products for various reasons, only to have all their competitors follow suit later on. So choosing different packaging can be a powerful, market shifting decision. It is certainly worthy of some consideration.
Types of Packaging
There are 4 broad categories of packaging:
- Bags (*AKA Flexible Packaging)
- Plastic Thermoform Packaging (AKA Blister Packs)
- Bottles / Jars / Containers / Tins
*just in case some of you may not no what AKA stands for, it means “Also Known As”
There are three basic types of boxes:
- Folding Cartons (AKA Paperboard Boxes, Paperboard Cartons)
- Rigid boxes (AKA Set-up Boxes)
- Corrugated Boxes (AKA Corrugated Fiberboard, Cardboard Boxes, Corrugated Board, Combined Board)
2. BAGS (Flexible Packaging)
There are 4 types of bags:
- Poly Bags
- Stand-Up Pouches (AKA Barrier Bag, SUP)
- Woven Poly Bags
- Paper Bags
Poly bag is a broad term that encompasses any single layer bag. These bags can be made from a any one of a vast array of plastic films.
A relative newcomer to the flexible packaging scene is the stand-up pouch. The stand-up pouch is a type of poly bag that is laminated with at least two (sometimes three) different types of plastic film that each contribute to a different attribute of the bags overall strength and barrier protection. Stand-up pouches have the potential (depending on your needs) of providing outstanding protection against oxidation and product spoilage. Most stand-up pouches have some type of gusset that allows them to “stand upright” on store shelves. The stand-up pouch was originally designed to replace a poly bag inside a box (folding carton).
For information on the three basic styles of stand-up pouches, click here.
3. PLASTIC THERMOFORMED PACKAGING (Blister Packs and Their Variations)
These come in a variety of styles. I have a pretty thorough article on all the various types and styles of blister packs.
4. BOTTLES / JARS / CONTAINERS / TINS
This category of packaging can be made of metal (usually tin-plated steel), plastic or glass and come in a variety of standardized shapes and sizes. The vast majority of this type of packaging is stock packaging as opposed to custom packaging. So if you use stock packaging, like plastic bottles for example, you would usually have a custom label printed and affixed to it.
Most of the above listed types of packaging have stock and custom options. Stock is usually much cheaper but often at the expense of other factors such as appearance, optimal sizing and direct printing. But sometimes, as in the case of bottles, jars, etc. you would be using stock (instead of custom designed) exclusively. However, massive companies like Johnson & Johnson have all of their bottles custom designed, but that is not the norm for most companies.
Choosing the Right Packaging Style
So once you decide on the type of packaging you want, you need to decide on the style. Here are some ideas to help you find the right style.
- Look at my website. I have packaging styles listed in the various article links on this page, and I’m adding to them all the time.
- Using Google Images to search for packaging styles. Search for packaging type i.e. “folding cartons” or “paperboard boxes” (which is another name for folding cartons). This should yield images of folding cartons in a variety of styles. Save images of the ones you like to your computer.
- Look in retail stores or online stores like Amazon for packaging ideas and take pictures of the ones you like.
- If you are still having trouble finding the right packaging style, make a sketch of it and describe it as much as possible.
We’ve been discussing your product’s primary packaging (what the consumer sees on retail shelves). There is also secondary or transportation packaging that is usually required to ship pallets of your packaging to various stores around the country and/or world. These mostly consist of corrugated fiberboard (commonly known as brown cardboard boxes to the layman). I have a few good articles discussing corrugated boxes both here and here. I’ll discuss transportation packaging later on.
Knowing the Right Size
If you have existing packaging from a previous order but you want to make changes, you may or may not have the die line (if applicable) or exact dimensions of it. Here are a couple of articles on how to measure a box and measure a bag to help you gain the approximate size of your packaging for price quoting purposes (I’ll cover that step a little later on).
If you have no preexisting packaging, just do your best to measure the approximate size of product. Also, consider whether you may need an insert to secure the product.
The weight and/or fragility of your product are also important factors that you will want to convey to your prospective packaging vendor, as this will help determine what grade or caliper of material the packaging should be made of.
Deciding on Your Volume
It is particularly important to have an estimated packaging volume ready for when you proceed to the next phase of the packaging buying process. With every company you contact “What is you packaging volume?” will be one of their first questions. The higher the volume, the cheaper it will be for you and the more attractive you will be to packaging manufacturers as well. But don’t bother exaggerating your volume as the price quote will be based on volume and will be pretty much useless to you if you do. It is also not worth your while to promise future business in the form of reorders in order to get a price break. They’ve heard that one a million times.
Do you anticipate moving a lot of product quickly? – Be honest, not just hopeful.
Do you have a retailer already interested in purchasing your product?
Do you have preorders in need of fulfillment?
Are your sales expectations proven or speculative?
Can you warehouse excess packaging yourself?
These are questions that should help you decide on your volume before you make that first inquiry with a packaging vendor.
Sometimes your volume can be skewed depending on how may SKUs you have (yes, I did that on purpose 🙂 ). Here is a handy article where I discuss volume and SKUs.
CLICK HERE for Part 2 ———-> How to Buy Packaging Part 2 – Find the Right Packaging Company