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Secondary Packaging: A Complete Guide


The retail industry, with its vast array of products, always strives to capture consumer attention in every possible way. Even durable, shelf-stable products such as batteries are packaged in some form or another. There are numerous reasons for this. Not only do boxes, bags, blister cards and the like keep products organized and safe during transit, but they also serve important functions such as branding and preventing theft. Packaging is not just a simple case to house the product; it serves as a protective layer, a billboard for branding, and even an enhancer of user experience.


What is secondary packaging and how do they contribute to success of your brand? Read on to learn more.


What is Secondary Packaging?


What is Secondary Packaging ?

Secondary packaging is the first thing your customer sees when picking up your products and browsing retail shelves. By definition, secondary packaging is any type of outer material that protects food, drink and consumer goods throughout transit. Secondary packaging tells your audience more about your product and surrounds primary packaging to ensure products stay in pristine condition. For instance, consider a carton that houses a bag of cereal. Not only does it provide extra safeguarding, but it also presents an extended platform for branding.


Anytime a customer drops, mishandles or carries goods from one place to another, secondary packaging is there to protect the item from damage. For example, a bag of cereal at the grocery store comes in a cardboard box that contains company logos, nutritional facts and pricing information. The outer cardboard box also plays a crucial role in advertising as well as shielding the breakfast food from potential damage.


And the process of stacking shipping containers onto a pallet is sometimes labeled as tertiary packaging. However, given that its primary role aligns with secondary packaging – bundling units for streamlined transport and distribution – we will consider it under the umbrella of secondary packaging in the context of this discussion.


Differences Between Primary Packaging And Secondary Packaging


Differences Between Primary Packaging And Secondary Packaging

Primary packaging


Primary packaging is the last piece of packaging between your product and the end user. It is something like the wrapper on a package of crackers, or the can that holds your soda. It is almost always meant to remain on the package until the end user obtains the product, and is usually not removed until right before the product is used. Other examples include the box around a batch of paper clips, the bottle that holds aspirin, and so on.


Secondary packaging


Secondary packaging is the layer of packaging that surrounds groups of primary packaged goods. It is mainly functional, designed to protect and consolidate the primary packages during transportation, storage, and while on retail shelves. However, it's not just a logistical workhorse. Secondary packaging serves as an invaluable tool for in-store marketing, presenting an opportunity to reinforce brand identity, catch the consumer's eye, and provide additional product information. Examples of secondary packaging include the carton that houses a 12-pack of soda cans or the box containing a bundle of toothpaste tubes.


Differences Between Primary and Secondary Packaging


Here are some of the key differences between primary packaging development and secondary packaging:


Location - Primary packaging is found closest to the product. In many cases, the product will either be contained or surrounded by primary packaging. Secondary packaging is usually an exterior layer. In the case of a bottle of aspirin pills, for example, the bottle that holds the tablets would be the primary packaging and the box that contains the bottle would be secondary packaging.


Main function - Primary packaging is designed to protect the product, maximise the chances of safe delivery and ensure that the item arrives in pristine condition when the recipient opens a box, carton or bottle. The function of secondary packaging are to organise products and make them stand out. Packaging design is an integral part of company branding strategies and it can make the difference between a consumer choosing one product over another.


Thus, while primary packaging is primarily about consumer interaction and product protection, secondary packaging is more about logistics, retail presentation, and extended marketing. The two together form a cohesive packaging strategy that can significantly enhance a product's retail success.


If you want to learn more about the differences between primary, secondary and tertiary packaging, you can click on our next post What Are Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Packaging?.


Types Of Secondary Packaging


Types Of Secondary Packaging

Secondary packaging comes in various forms, each offering unique advantages and limitations based on their intended usage. Here's a closer look at three primary types:


Chipboard Cartons - Comprising numerous paper layers bonded together, chipboard serves as a subtype of cardboard. It is available in several thickness levels, with its resilience and sturdiness directly linked to its thickness. While generally less costly than other secondary packaging alternatives, chipboard tends to lag in strength and durability compared to options such as corrugated cardboard. Think of a cereal box or a tea bag carton as everyday examples of chipboard packaging.


Corrugated Cases - While also a cardboard derivative, corrugated cases differ from chipboard in their structural design. They consist of a wavy or fluted paper sheet nestled between two flat paperboard layers. This fluted sheet imparts significant strength and durability to the corrugated case, enabling it to withstand rough handling and stacking during transit, hence its popularity for shipping containers.


Heat/Shrink Wrap - This packaging variant uses a special polymer film to encase products. Typical applications include a package of water bottles where the film is wrapped around the products and exposed to heat, causing it to shrink and form a tight grip around the products. While this packaging type is often more economical, it can pose additional challenges at the retail point if the package needs to be unpacked and its contents displayed on a shelf.


As a leading provider of complete drinks secondary packaging lines in China, YCTD is recognized among the top ten enterprises in the country's light industrial liquid food machinery sector. We brings to the table advanced secondary beverage packaging options, tailor-made for your business needs. From our Cardboard + Film packing, delivering robust product protection with shelf appeal, to the Tray + Film packing, combining sustainability with superior visibility and handling. The Shrinking + Carton Wrapping method combines aesthetic appeal with durability, while the Shrinking Around Carton offers strength for high-speed operations. As a retailer, your packaging choice makes a statement about your brand, impacting storage, transport, and overall customer perception. For those seeking ultimate efficiency, our state-of-the-art Case Packer is the perfect choice.


Types Of Secondary Packaging


Common Secondary Packaging Materials


Common Secondary Packaging Materials

Secondary packaging takes on several forms depending on a company’s packaging needs. A company’s product will dictate what packaging method makes sense for an item to go through shipping, receiving and unloading procedures. Some of the most common types of secondary packaging include:


  • Shipping Cartons:These sturdy containers, usually made from corrugated cardboard, provide robust protection for goods during transportation. Their customizable sizes and shapes, combined with excellent stacking strength, make shipping cartons an industry favorite for moving a wide range of products, from electronics to apparel.


  • Shrink Wraps: A type of plastic film, shrink wrap, is wrapped around a product or a set of products and then heated, causing the wrap to shrink and hold the items securely. This packaging material is ideal for protecting products from dust, dirt, and moisture, as well as for bundling multiple items together for ease of transport.


  • Outer Films:Often used as an overwrap on cartons, boxes, or trays, outer films are usually transparent and serve to protect products while maintaining visibility. These films can be heat-sealed for additional security and are typically used in the food industry for products like meat, cheese, and produce.


  • Cardboard Boxes:A staple in the packaging industry, cardboard boxes are versatile and cost-effective. Their lightweight nature and structural strength make them ideal for protecting and transporting a wide array of goods. Plus, they are recyclable and can be printed on for branding purposes, making them a popular choice among environmentally conscious businesses.


  • Trays:Often made from plastic, cardboard, or molded pulp, trays help to organize products and keep them secure during transit. Trays are commonly used in the food and beverage industry for things like ready meals, drinks, and produce, as well as in the electronics industry for components.


  • Paperboard Enclosures: Typically used for lighter items like cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, or food products, paperboard enclosures are made from heavier paper stock, offering more rigidity than regular paper. They're recyclable and provide ample surface area for high-quality printing, making them popular for both their practicality and their potential for stunning visual presentation.


All secondary packaging materials act as a bumper. Ideally, these protective layers are the only thing making contact with primary packaging.


Why Is It Important to Choose Secondary Packaging?


The significance of secondary packaging is closely intertwined with the customer experience. Customers encounter the outer layers of secondary packaging before accessing the primary packaging and merchandise within. This engagement presents a valuable opportunity to leave a lasting impression. By incorporating branding phrases, signature color schemes, and custom text, all these distinctive elements should find their way onto your secondary packaging materials.


Strengthen Your Brand Visibility and Recognition


Why Is It Important to Choose Secondary Packaging?

One of the main advantages of using secondary packaging is that it can help improve your product's visibility. This is especially important if you are selling your product in a brick-and-mortar store. When customers are browsing the shelves, they are more likely to notice products that are attractively packaged. If your product is not properly packaged, it could get lost in the sea of other products on the shelves.


In addition to improving product visibility, secondary packaging can also help to improve brand recognition. Using consistent packaging for all your products, you can create a cohesive brand identity that customers will remember.Secondary


Many different types of equipment can be used for secondary packaging. The type of equipment that you use will depend on the type of product that you are packaging, the desired shelf life, and the preferred aesthetic. By understanding what secondary packaging is and what type of equipment is used for it, businesses can ensure that their products are properly protected and packaged for retail sales.


If you are looking for a way to improve your product's visibility, consider using secondary packaging. Using the right equipment, you can create an attractive package that will help your product stand out from the competition.


Enhance Protection During Transport and Storage


Why Is It Important to Choose Secondary Packaging?

In an increasingly globalized market, products often embark on extensive journeys before they reach consumers. From the bustling factory floors in China to the retail shelves in America, the transportation process can be arduous, fraught with numerous handling points and potential hazards. Here, secondary packaging becomes the unsung hero, providing an extra layer of protection that can mean the difference between a product reaching its destination intact or damaged.


Secondary packaging functions as a buffer, cushioning products from physical impacts, vibrations, and environmental conditions such as humidity, dust, and temperature fluctuations. Whether it's a case of delicate glassware or a carton of electronics, secondary packaging absorbs the brunt of any shocks or accidents during transit, thus preserving the integrity of the primary packaging and the product itself.


And in storage scenarios - be it a warehouse or a consumer's pantry - secondary packaging plays a pivotal role. It helps maintain product quality, extends shelf life, and protects goods from environmental elements. Plus, its standard shapes and sizes make stacking and storing much more efficient, maximizing space usage and aiding in inventory management. If you want your product to travel the world and still arrive in mint condition, invest in high-quality secondary packaging. It's not merely a choice; it's a necessity.


Optimizing Efficiency in Packaging


Why Is It Important to Choose Secondary Packaging?

The role of secondary packaging as a powerful tool for enhancing operational efficiency is often overlooked. However, its impact on streamlining operations, reducing costs, and improving customer satisfaction is substantial.


Secondary packaging provides a standardized system that can significantly optimize warehouse operations. Uniform boxes, crates or pallets allow for efficient stacking, reducing the footprint of stored goods and freeing up valuable warehouse space. This efficient utilization of storage directly translates to reduced overhead costs, an aspect that's increasingly important in an era of rising real estate prices.


When it comes to logistics, secondary packaging works wonders to make handling and distribution processes smoother and more efficient. With standardized shapes and sizes, secondary packaging streamlines stacking and storing, making the most out of warehouse space and optimizing the transport capacity in trucks, ships, or planes. This uniformity not only maximizes storage and transport efficiency, but it also reduces the time and labor involved in packing and unpacking goods.


Beyond the warehouse, secondary packaging shines in the transportation phase. Uniform packaging facilitates easy loading and unloading, thereby reducing turnaround times. It also enables optimal use of transport space – be it in a truck, ship, or airplane – allowing more products to be shipped at once, leading to decreased transportation costs.


Implementing Secondary Packaging With YCTD


Implementing Secondary Packaging With YCTD

Secondary packaging for retail has long played a crucial role in every contract packaging service. From bags of pre-wrapped candies to buy-one-get-one-free multi-packs, secondary packaging is an integral part of preparing products for retail sale. New business models have propelled secondary packaging to unprecedented levels, with manufacturers recognizing its potential to boost sales and enhance brand recognition when strategically deployed.


This rise in secondary packaging for retail is a direct response to the emergence of club and big box outlets. Buying in bulk affords consumers savings on everything from canned vegetables to mouthwash, and manufacturers can capitalize on this by bundling their products for big box-style retail sales. Bundling presents more than just a chance to supply consumers with multi-packs of an item, it offers an opportunity for manufacturers to aggressively market their product through labeling, cross promotions, and increased shelf presence.


YCTD, a high-tech enterprise specializing in liquid food secondary packaging solutions, is at the forefront of this trend. With our focus on innovation and efficiency, YCTD provides manufacturers the tools and strategies to fully leverage the benefits of secondary packaging.


Branding secondary packaging can significantly distinguish your company from competitors. While financially it may not make sense for high-demand items like food or clothing, people are willing to invest in accessory items that demonstrate some branding effort. These products usually come with low costs, requiring only a creative and effective branding approach to make them market-ready.


Creating a positive first impression on your customers is vital, as it often leads to repeat business. Whether promoting your company as environmentally friendly, fast, or professional, packaging plays a crucial role in reinforcing this message. It's often one of the first things consumers notice! If you're considering private branding for interior/exterior graphics, explore suppliers like YCTD who have a wealth of expertise and can showcase successful examples from previous clients.


Future Trends in Secondary Packaging


Future Trends in Secondary Packaging

As we look ahead, several trends are expected to shape the future of secondary packaging, driven by technological advancements, evolving consumer demands, and the urgent need for sustainability.




Given the growing awareness and concern for the environment, sustainability is becoming an increasingly significant factor in packaging design. Expect to see more secondary packaging made from recycled or biodegradable materials. Companies are also investigating ways to minimize packaging without compromising on product protection and branding. This shift to eco-friendliness is not merely a trend but is quickly becoming a new standard in packaging design.


Smart Packaging


In an increasingly digitized world, packaging is no longer just about physical protection and aesthetics. Incorporating digital elements, such as QR codes or Augmented Reality (AR) markers, into secondary packaging is an emerging trend. These additions can provide consumers with access to additional product information, promotional offers, or interactive experiences that enhance the brand's image and engagement.




With the growth of e-commerce and direct-to-consumer sales, there's an increasing demand for personalized secondary packaging. This can range from including the customer's name on the packaging to designing the package to reflect their personal preferences or the occasion, like a birthday or holiday. Personalization helps build a connection between the brand and the customer, enhancing customer loyalty.


Automation-friendly Designs


As companies increasingly automate their warehousing and distribution, there's a need for secondary packaging that is compatible with automation systems. This means designs that are easy for machines to pick up, move, and pack, which can streamline the logistics chain and reduce costs.


By keeping pace with these trends, businesses can leverage secondary packaging as a tool for not just protection and transportation, but also for branding, customer engagement, and contributing to a more sustainable future. The future of secondary packaging, it seems, is poised to be as dynamic and diverse as the products it protects.




What Is Secondary Packaging And Why Is It Critical for Retailers?

Secondary packaging is much more than a protective measure. Its vital role in safeguarding goods, enabling efficient handling, and enhancing retail display makes it a key factor in a product's overall journey from factory to consumer. Whether it's chipboard cartons, shrink wraps, or trays, the choices of secondary packaging materials are broad and versatile, influenced by product type, transportation needs, and brand considerations including environmental and cost impacts.


In an era where sustainability and innovation are paramount, secondary packaging is evolving. Cutting-edge materials and designs are constantly emerging, seamlessly integrating technology and eco-consciousness. For businesses looking to stay ahead, it's essential to keep abreast of these trends and partner with experts who can guide them in adopting the most beneficial packaging practices.


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