Contract packaging provides packaging services for other companies to package and ship their products. All commodities require some sort of packaging, from food to cosmetics, and there are a wide variety of packaging types available to cater to different companies and products. Basically, a contract packager is a third party company that offers packaging solutions, and a contract packager can take care of everything from custom packaging to ensuring on-time delivery of the packaged goods.
Companies can use contract packaging for several reasons, but the most common one is efficiency. Many companies do not have the resources or materials to be able to package and transport their products in a cost-effective manner. They use these contract packaging services as a cheaper, easier option to ensure their product gets where they want it to go in the way that they want it to without having to do the work themselves.
Contract Packaging: Industries and Products
There are a variety of contract packaging options available, so a large spread of industries use contract packaging services. Companies with food products often utilize contract packaging services. For example, while a company in the food industry may have the capabilities to produce the product, they may not have the ability to securely package and get it to the store in a condition appealing to customers. Contract packaging services can be helpful in providing secure food packaging, labeling and transportation so that the food product is not contaminated in the process and ends up on the shelves ready to be sold.
In addition, the cosmetic industry can be a popular customer for contract packaging services. Similar to goods in the food industry, cosmetics often need to be packaged in a particular way that they protect the product from outside contaminates and appeal to the customer, often through shape, color, and labeling. Many cosmetic products come in the form of powders, which can cause unique difficulties that contract packaging services have and experience dealing with, having different containers, pouches, and other solutions available. Medical or pharmaceutical companies also need safe packaging and storage for their products that contract packaging services can take care of, and companies in industries that produce industrial products and business-to-business products can also take advantage of contract packaging services as well.
Because many different industries use contract packaging, there are a variety of a wide range of commodities that are produced by this process. With all the various industries that take advantage of contract packaging services, the products can range from makeup and beauty products to medicine to food and beverages. The food and beverage industry is one of the top industries that use of these services along with the personal care and pharmaceutical industries, but in short, if a company needs a product packaged and transported, regardless of industry, there is likely a contract packaging service that can effectively meet their needs.
History of Contract Packaging
While packaging goods have almost always been around in some form or another, the modern contract packaging industry did not become popular until the late twentieth century. The Contract Packaging Association, the national trade organization for this industry, was created in 1992, marking the rise of the industry. The contract packaging industry has actually doubled since 2008, proving to be a valuable resource for other companies and a strong industry in itself.
Further in the past, tinning, meaning the use of tinplate, was a common material used in early packaging mainly in the eighteenth century in England. This strategy was then followed by the technique of canning, which was first patented in 1810, and the first canning factory for commercial purposes was opened in London in 1812, setting the stage for a more modern packaging industry. Packaging with paper-based materials became more popular towards the late nineteenth century. Many of the new improvements for packaging stemmed from inventions and innovations intended for the U.S. military in transporting materials for wars like World War II, as weapons and food rations had to be packaged and moved securely so that the soldiers could effectively use them out in the field. There seems to be no clear consensus on the first company or figure that invented the contract packaging industry, but rather there is an accumulation of different companies and developments that helped the contract packaging industry become the success it is today. In fact, there are even degrees offered in packaging, with the first degree in Packaging Engineering offered in 1952.
How the Process Works
Contract packaging works through classifying the packaging, and packaging can be considered primary, secondary, or tertiary. Primary packaging constitutes the material that comes into contact with the product, while secondary packaging contains multiple primary packages together. Lastly, tertiary packaging means the packaging used in handling products in bulk, storage in warehousing, and shipping. For example, if a food product is put in a glass jar, then the jar would be the primary packaging; the food comes into close contact with the jar. If these jars were then put together in a box, the box would be the secondary packaging. If these boxes were shrink-wrapped together, the shrink wrap would be a type of tertiary packaging. In addition, if the boxes were placed on or stored on a pallet in a warehouse, than that pallet would also be a type of tertiary packaging.
In order to even start the process, the contract packager must have the right material for the right product. One of the most common packaging materials is plastic because it is lightweight but durable. High-density polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate are two of the sturdier plastics that are used for bottles. Flexible packing materials, like low-density polyethylene, are convenient for primary and secondary product packaging. Paperboard and fiberboard are also commonly used materials in both primary and secondary packaging. Paper is utilized for labels and thinner project, while paperboard is thicker. Paperboard functions well as cartons and other primary packaging. Fiberboard, on the other hand, works well for secondary packaging with its rigid boards harboring more strength and resistance. Glass works well as a primary package to contain individual products, like glass jars or bottles. As for metals, the most common metal used in packaging is aluminum, used mainly for cans, containers, and aluminum foil. As aluminum retains both heat and cold fairly well and is extremely resistant to leaks, it functions as a solid apparatus for containing products. Foil can actually help keep commodities safe, protecting them from outside elements like sunlight and moisture that can harm them. In order to utilize these materials, certain machinery may also need to be available.
There are a variety of approaches contract packaging companies can take, and a company can even manage a portion of the client’s supply chain, meaning that they may source packing materials by delivery to the client’s sites of distribution. The whole process can be customized depending on the client's needs. While some clients may have the facilities to store large quantities of the product for short periods of time, they may not have easy access to a way to distribute their product to sell it. In consequence, a contract packager would help package the product in smaller, more appealing for retail containers to help the company sell their product. Fulfillment services can actually help with inventory management, creating a more practicable situation for companies and allowing more space for production. This type of service works with the organization of not only the production duties like material handling and controlling inventory for packaging and fulfillment but also assembly and transportation. Customization can also occur through packaging design. While there are certain designs for practicality that take into account cost, material, and usability, designs for aesthetic purposes can play a large role as well, particularly in the labeling of products. There are some services that even offer graphic design consultations to create labels that are more attractive to customers. Private labeling can be helpful for companies to create a more appealing purchasable commodity.
Machines Used in Contract Packaging
Along with the materials that are commonly used in contract packaging, contract packagers need to have specific machines and tools in order to correctly package commodities. Although a few processes can be done by hand—like bench assembly, where items are placed on a bench and then packed by hand—many other packing techniques require the use of complex machinery. For example, blister packaging, seen frequently in packages of pharmaceutical pills, necessitates plastic molding equipment. Similarly, clam shell assembly and packaging needs a heat seal automated machine in order to safely seal the product. Other machines commonly used are label dispensers, form-fill-seal machines, and vacuum packaging machinery. In general, packaging machinery can be purchased as standard equipment, purchased customized, or even made or changed within the company itself, but because the machinery is so specific to the packaging industry, it is often easier for companies to subcontract their packaging needs than buy the machines themselves.
Benefits of Contract Packages
Contract packaging services have already been established as a cost-effective solution for companies who simply do not have the resources or a facility to package, transport, or label their goods. Utilizing the contract manufactures of packaging allows for less investment on behalf of the company but a greater profit; the company does not have to spend as much time and money on packaging by outsourcing it but instead can allocate the saved money into increasing their own production. Similarly, this service allows for greater flexibility in businesses because they have more choices with contract packaging than they might if they had to figure out everything on their own. It also contributes to a quicker output and offers an easy option for short-term (like seasonal) packaging.
A major benefit is how contract packaging can be customized, creating a process that works for each company. Certain processes, like contact packagers that offer added services including bar coding, contract sewing, or thermoforming, work best for the companies that need them. It is necessary to evaluate the needs behind hiring the packaging contract service, judging if full-service turn-key solutions—meaning one that understands the entire supply chain—is the most practical option or if another, less compressive route should be taken.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Contract Packager
There are many important factors to take into consideration when choosing a contract packaging service. The capability of a contract packager is most likely the most important because a contract packager needs to have the equipment and resources in order to package to the requirements. Searching or asking for a list of previous successfully completed projects may be helpful to confirm the capabilities. Location can impact deliver time and charges, and it can be more convenient to have a packager located closer to the materials, end location, or distribution center. Flexibility may be something else to keep in mind in understanding how a company would handle any unforeseen difficulties or conflicts that may occur with a business. Overall, there are many qualified contract packaging services out there, and the key is to find the one that best fits with the needs of the company.
Contract Packaging Types
is a hand-packaging technique in which items are on a bench and packaged
consists of a hard thermoformed bubble to hold the product to a back
card for presentation.
is the insertion of the product into the designed box, holder or
enclosure for display and shipping.
- is the process of creating the plastic clam shells and inserting
and sealing the items inside. Clam shell assembly is typically an automated
- Cosmetic packaging is packaging used to store and ship skin care, beauty products and other cosmetic products.
- Custom Packaging tailors
packaging design to the needs of a specific product or company.
is a packaging
process that produces a label shape using the cutting edge of a die.
- Food packaging is any packaging material used for the shipment, storage or display of food products.
- deal with the organization of various production duties,
such as material handling, inventory control, assembly and transportation.
- Medical packaging is any packaging used to store or transport medical devices or medication.
to the characteristics of a certain package.
- Packaging is any material used to enclose an item in order to protect it during shipment and while on display.
- is the packaging of medical substances with regard to FDA
regulations and requirements.
is the placing of a product
into a polybag and sealing it with heat.
- Product packaging is material used to enclose a product in order to protect it during shipment and while on display.
is using radio frequency to permanently seal a clamshell package.
- Shrink wrapping is a common packaging method in which a product is wrapped
in shrink film and then heated so that the film shrinks to the size
and shape of the product. Shrink packaging provides a secure
and tamper resistant layer.
is pulling a film tightly
over a product that is on a card. Heat is used to adhere the film
to the card and to create a transparent covering.
is a combination of blister, skin, clamshell and shrink wrapping,
which is often seen with batteries and small toys.
Contract Packaging Terms
A material capable of holding materials together by exterior attachment.
– A card, usually made of cardboard or paper, to which
a product is mounted or secured for certain types of packaging, like
blister or skin. Back cards can be custom printed and have special adhesives
for product or other packaging elements.
– A unit of compressed items or materials bound together with
cord, strapping or metal ties. Bales may also be wrapped and bundled.
– A term that refers to the differing grades of folding
and scoring properties to create boxes. Boxboards are delivered to the
contract packaging company in flat sheets.
– A plastic packaging device with two sides and a folding
hinge, which encloses and seals an item inside like a clam.
– A small primary packaging item, usually made of metal.
– The means by which a container is sealed and its contents
– The sorting and/or assembly of items.
– Hirable services for the construction or gathering
of a product.
– A term that refers to paper-based board that has one
or more sheets of fluted paper glued to one or more flat sheets of board.
– Any of a variety of tools or
devices used for cutting material to a desired shape.
– An organization that sets standards and regulations for the packaging
– A shiny finish on a smooth surface, such as vinyl or paint.
– The putting together of products through manual
labor or the combination of manual and automated labor.
– A process in which heat is used to fasten together
– Small, hard packaging that has a wide mouth and is made typically
of glass, ceramic or plastic.
– Sending a product to a contract supplier, packager
or assembler for their services.
– The last step for a product before it is shipped out.
– A shipping term for taking a product from inventory
and packing it and preparing it for shipping.
– Putting a new label over an old label on a product
or replacing the existing label with a new label.
– Processing returned goods and reworking or
repackaging them to new standards.
– A process of printing in which the ink is forced
through the image area of a properly stretched fabric by the use of a
squeegee or, in some cases, air pressure directly onto the surface to
– An action that must be performed following
the line process, as it needs special attention.
– A flexible piece
of strip material that is normally flat or circular in cross section,
and is used as reinforcement in a larger bale or bundle or to secure items
for packaging within a container.
– Material that expands when applied under pressure
and recovers while conforming to the item packaged.