Types of Packaging Material: A Short Guide for Businesses

Nick Mirev
Table of Contents
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    The packaging industry has expanded significantly in the last decades. Virtually everything we buy comes packaged. In industries with high competition, marketing becomes increasingly important. That’s why packaging design is of crucial importance as well. The eCommerce revolution has also played a big role in the shifts in the packaging industry. Thanks to innovations, businesses are able to reduce the cost of goods sold by reducing packaging costs. In this blog post, we’ll share more about the main types of packaging materials and the different categories and classifications they fall under. If you’re interested in the topic, make sure to also check our posts on packaging tips and wholesale food packaging.

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    Main Packaging Classifications

    The most popular packaging classification divides the different types of materials into three categories - primary, secondary, and tertiary packaging.

    What Is Primary Packaging

    Generally speaking, primary packaging is the one that is in direct contact with the product itself. This includes things such as bottles, cans, and various polymer packaging solutions. The main goals of primary packaging is to make the product easy to handle and to preserve it. The durability of primary packaging is important because if customers detect damage on the packaging, it can significantly discourage them from buying the product. On the other hand, the primary packaging needs to be easy to open for people to enjoy their beverage or other products. Presentation and design are crucial with primary packaging.

    What Is Secondary Packaging

    Secondary packaging is the layer that protects the products (already in their primary packaging). Plastic and cardboard boxes are good examples of secondary packaging. Although the main goal of this type of packaging solution is to provide additional protection for products, they serve other purposes too. Secondary packaging should help businesses with the storage and warehousing of stock.

    In some cases, the design of secondary packaging is also very important. That’s mostly true for products that are sold in brick-and-mortar retailers or grocery stores. For example, the design of a six-pack is as important as the design of the bottle.

    What Is Tertiary Packaging

    Tertiary packaging is also called transit or bulk packaging. End users rarely see this layer as it is removed by the retailer. Examples of tertiary packaging products include wooden pallets and shipping crates.

    These types of packaging solutions serve as a final layer of protection for the goods inside. With the help of tertiary packaging, goods can be loaded and moved easily.

    Key takeaway: There are many different types of packaging products. Most of them are made of plastic, cardboard, or glass. Plant-based packaging solutions are increasing in popularity.  The main classifications of packaging products are primary, secondary, and tertiary packaging.
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    Most Common Types of Packaging Products

    There are hundreds of different types of packaging materials and solutions. The majority of them are in the primary packaging field. However, as secondary packaging is becoming increasingly important for sales, businesses often focus on these goods as well. Let’s see some of the most popular types of packaging solutions.

    • Laminated bags and pouches. They are made of polymer with an extra layer of laminate on top. They are more durable than plastic bags and can have zips.
    • Plastic bags. They come in many different sizes and colors. Plastic bags are one of the main polluters. That’s why many businesses are switching to more eco-friendly alternatives such as biodegradable bags.
    • Plastic containers. From disposable food containers to bottles, plastic containers have many different uses. A lot of businesses purchase wholesale plastic containers based on their needs. Although these types of packaging solutions made of high-density polyethylene are mostly associated with food and beverages, they can also be used by the pharmaceutical industry and for various other applications.
    • Aluminum and tin cans. Although most people associate cans with beverages, they can be used to store various products. Their popularity has risen as an alternative to glass containers before plastic was so popular.
    • Paper bags. As they are biodegradable and recyclable, the popularity of paper bags has increased significantly in recent years. They are no longer used primarily in grocery stores. Customized paper bags are used by various retailers.
    • Bubble wrap. It’s most popular as a secondary packaging solution that protects products from damage. Bubble wrap can also be used to pack electronics, furniture, plastics, and glass goods.
    • Cardboard. Mono cartons are made of a single cardboard layer. They are a common option for products like cereal or drugs. They are easy to fold and very customizable. Regular cardboard options have three layers which provide additional protection and strength. Combined with the low price and recyclability, cardboard solutions are the most popular types of packaging on the market.
    • Glass. Glass has been used for centuries. Glass bottles and jars are the two most common packaging varieties.
    • Wood. Wooden containers are usually used in tertiary packaging. Some high-end products such as bottles of wine or cigars can also be packed in a wooden crate to make the experience more luxurious.
    • Plant-based packaging. Although it’s not as common as cardboard, glass, or plastic, we decided to end this list with plant-based packaging options. The demand for these solutions is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. Bioplastics made of sugarcane and corn are among the most environmentally friendly options. These bioplastics are durable and have hundreds of applications. Innovations in the packaging industry have helped develop packaging materials made of seaweed and mushrooms.
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    Frequently Asked Questions about the Types of Packaging

    If you want to find out more useful information about packaging, look no further. The BlueCart team has gathered and answered some of the popular questions regarding packaging below. If you’re interested in finding out more about shipping, check out our articles on packing slips and overnight shipping costs.

    How Big Is the Packaging Market?

    Since everything we buy comes packaged, the packaging industry is one of the biggest global markets. Naturally, the US and other developed countries hold the largest market share. In the near future, the packaging market will be shaped by the increasing demand from Asia and Africa.

    The market for biodegradable and eco-friendly types of packaging is increasing faster compared to other non-sustainable options. Another major driver for the industry is the growth of online sales. As more and more people purchase goods online, the demand for eCommerce packaging products increases. During shipping and handling, products are usually packed in three layers.

    How to Reduce Packaging Costs?

    Ordering in bulk is the easiest way to lower the average cost of packaging materials. Working with packaging wholesalers is also more convenient for businesses as these suppliers can offer a wide variety of products. Other ways to cut packaging costs include:

    • Minimalist design. Combining sustainable eCommerce packaging with minimalist design can reduce packaging costs. It’s also very trendy;
    • Using the right materials. Choosing packaging materials that fit the products is very important. Using suboptimal packaging options can lead to increased costs of filler material and even damage to the products. Check out our packaging tips for shipping;
    • Invest in automation. As a business scales, the need for automation of processes increases. That’s true for warehouse packaging as well.

    What Are the Trends in Packaging?

    The rapid advancement of technology has significantly changed the packaging industry. Autonomous packaging combined with modern warehouse scanning solutions is among the biggest trends in the field. In addition to technological advancements, eco-friendly packaging is also a trend that is here to stay. An increasing number of consumers and businesses aim to lower their ecological footprint. That’s why manufacturers have been focusing on sustainable packaging options as the demand for recyclable packaging grows every year.

    More businesses count on custom packaging or contract packaging as well. The role of packaging is not only to protect products and increase their shelf life. Instead, it helps with brand awareness. It’s very important for the design to be eye-catching as that can have a significant impact on sales.

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