What are the Three Types of Packaging?

The packaging industry is complex. However, if you have a product you want to bring to market, then understanding the ins and outs of packaging is vital. The different levels of packaging are all important in your product’s journey from manufacturing unit to the end user. Read on to understand the different levels of packaging and the functions they serve so that you can leverage your packaging for optimum efficiency and value for money.

What are the Three Types of Packaging?

Types of packaging are typically defined by their level of closeness to your product – primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary packaging is the packaging that comes into direct contact with your product, while secondary and tertiary packaging hold multiple units of your product. Each of these packaging types are made up different materials and are seen by different people in the distribution chain. 

Primary Packaging

This is the innermost layer of your packaging – or well almost (we’ll explain this in more detail in a moment). In the packaging industry, it may also be called retail packaging or consumer packaging (packaging for Consumer-Packaged Goods or CPG). Some examples of primary packaging include:

  • A tube that holds an ointment.
  • The bag that holds chips.
  • A glass jar for preserves
  • The bottle that holds dishwashing liquid.

Sometimes, multiple layers come under the primary packaging ambit. Take the case of a cereal box, for example. It contains a sealed pouch which is further inserted into a carboard box. Although there are two layers of packaging, they are both handled by the customer. Primary packaging also, thus, includes things like zip ties and plastic inserts that hold electronics in place in their boxes.

Primary packaging serves multiple purposes. It holds your product in a form that consumers can access it. It is designed to preserve your product in the best way possible. It is also attractive featuring your brand, the name of the product, and advertising material like slogans to entice consumers to purchase it. Finally, it also contains information relevant to consumers like ingredients, best-before dates, contact information, and more. Primary packaging, therefore, holds a really important role. 

Primary packaging is also the most used, and discarded packaging product. Laws against single use plastics are growing stricter across the world and consumers are growing more eco-conscious too. Minimizing your packaging and using recyclable packaging can help you reduce your carbon footprint and score points with your customers too. 

Primary packaging advertises and protects. Get this wrong, and you’re likely to see your customers moving swiftly to your competitors. 

Secondary Packaging

Secondary packaging is also referred to as Stock Keeping Units (SKUs). Its basic function is to hold multiple units of products in their primary packaging in one place. Secondary packaging is used to protect products during shipping and handling. Secondary packaging has less information on it than primary packaging but may still contain advertising slogans and branding in cases where it might be handled by a consumer or put on display. For example, a carboard box used to hold six bottles of beer together will often have company branding on it, even though the primary packaging (the bottles in this case) has it. Secondary packaging makes it easy to store and transport multiple units of a product while protecting it.

E-commerce stores may also define their secondary packaging as the boxes and bags they use to ship their products to customers.

Tertiary Packaging

Tertiary packaging carries out the same functions for SKUs as they do for primary packaging. In short, it holds and protects multiple units of secondary packaging.  It helps move units of product at scale. Rarely ever seen by a consumer, tertiary packaging is used to ship very large quantities and thus needs to be able to protect the goods from handling processes like forklifts and cranes and transport. Pallets, wooden crates, and shipping containers are all examples of tertiary packaging. 

Creating a packaging strategy is one of the most important aspects of your distribution and logistics chain. You need to think about every level of your packaging to make sure your product is transported, stored, and displayed correctly. 

A reliable packaging equipment provider can help you get your primary packaging set up just right.

If you’re considering streamlining your packaging processes, the proper setup will help you reduce costs and improve your supply chain management.

If you know what you need but are unsure how to accomplish it, the team at Accent Packaging Equipment is happy to help. Contact us today.