Packing projects: what do businesses need to know?

The benefits of outsourcing your business’s product packaging to a contract packer include controlling and setting costs, improving efficiency and freeing up time that would have been spent on the packing process to focus on other areas of the business. However, to ensure your project is manageable and turned around swiftly, you’ll need to consider a number of factors.

What should you ask?

Before you decide on a suitable contract packer, establish whether they will be able to carry out the job by asking the following questions.

  • Do you have the necessary equipment to complete my request?
  • Will the price be within my budget?
  • Will your machinery be suitable for the packaging materials I need?
  • How long will it take?
  • What quantities can you work with?
  • What quality-control procedures do you implement?
  • Can I see copies of certification?

Guidelines for different forms of packing

Packing comes in a variety of forms, including sachets, pouches, shrink and sleeves. You need to know which option best suits your business.

Mick Clark, managing director at WePack, said: “It is important to establish what the consistency is before sending a product to be packed because when it arrives it might not be suitable. Businesses should be prepared with the required information.

“We need to have a successful trial of the product before we agree to produce the full number because it’s not possible to have a one size fits all. We give a price based on the solution and the time taken and cost of any additional equipment needed.”

Sachets

Sachets tend to be popular among businesses with small budgets, as they are one of the cheapest options available. However, the size and design can increase the cost.

Products most suited to sachets are:

  • anything granular or powdered that can be easily poured, such as salt and sugar
  • small solid products like jelly beans, tablets and capsules
  • liquid foods
  • non-food liquids such as gels and lotions

If your product doesn’t suit sachets, you’ll need to consider alternatives such as small bottles, jars and tubes. However, as bottles and jars are heavier, they will be more expensive.

Pouches

Liquids, sauces, dry and granular products are suitable for pouch packaging but sachets, bottles, jars and small cardboard boxes can work as a substitute.

There are different pouches to choose from. You might favour a stand-up pouch because they are free-standing. If you don’t need the stand-up bottom, you can use a flat pouch.

Flow wrapping

Solid items that can be pushed along a horizontal conveyor belt—such as chocolate bars, packs of tissues or scratchcards—are suitable for flow wrapping. This packaging preserves raw materials and protects the product by using only a limited amount of material.

Some off-site packaging services also print flow-wrapped products, which will increase the overall price.

Shrink wrapping

Shrink wrapping is an airtight plastic coating used to package products together for transportation or to sell in multi-packs. Suitable for most products, it is available in a variety of thicknesses, is low-cost and creates a gloss effect which can improve the item’s overall appearance.

Alternatives to shrink wrapping:

  • Overwrapping involves more elaborate tooling to fit the film correctly and is often used for more luxurious products such as chocolate and cosmetics.
  • Sleeve wrapping is a thick plastic coating used only to protect products during transportation and not for aesthetic purposes.
  • Stretch wrapping is thick pre-stretched packaging that tightens when wrapping and is also only used for transporting products.

Blister packaging

If a product is vulnerable to damage due to its shape—such as an ornament or toy—blister packaging can provide a level of protection that a bag or box can’t. Tablets are also packaged this way as blisters keep products clean and uncontaminated.

Clam packaging, which offers the same level of protection, is an alternative for products that don’t fit into blisters or have a number of different parts, such as small tool sets.

Plastic or glass

There are several factors to consider before deciding whether to use plastic or glass when bottling your product.

It is recommended to use glass if the product—such as perfume—has a strong scent that would escape through the tiny pores that most plastic bottles have. These pores also cause air to seep in, which can shorten the lifespan of a liquid product or cause it to go off.

If a product has a strong colour or is made from certain chemicals, use coloured glass packaging to protect it against the effects of UV light.

It can be unsafe for food to come into contact with some plastic, but PET, polyester and polypropylene are commonly used in food containers and pouches. Brands that have a more luxurious image might use glass for confectionery items, to give that more upscale impression.

It is important to consider the packing weight as glass is much heavier than plastic, which will increase the overall price.

“There is usually a solution to any challenges that are presented but under some circumstances, it is more suitable for businesses to package their products in-house,” Mick Clark said.

When shouldn’t you work with a contract packer?

  • If you are working with small product runs for samples or limited-edition products, it might be more efficient to complete the process in-house.
  • If your budget doesn’t cover the finances needed to execute the contract packers’ requirements.