What Is Food Packaging?

Learn about food packaging, why it's important, and the best materials to package food.

Food packaging refers to materials used to contain food products until they’re ready to be consumed. In ecommerce, food packaging can also refer to materials used to ship products to customers.

Depending on the type of food sold, packaging materials are made from plastics, glass, metal, paper, or cardboard just to name a few.

Food businesses have to adhere to strict regulations to make sure that products remain safe for consumption. That means they can’t just use whatever materials they want. They should use food-grade packaging.

Why Is Food Packaging Important?

Protein Bar Boxes by Acorn Bar
Protein Bar Boxes by Acorn Bar

Packaging plays a huge role in the food business. It’s not just a container as some would think. Below are just some of the reasons why food packaging is so important.

It Keeps Food in Place

The main purpose of food packaging is to serve as a container. It needs to be durable enough to carry the weight of the food product. Whether products are sold in retail locations or online, the packaging has to be tough enough to withstand transport.

It Protects Food From Contaminants

Pests and contaminants could make contact with food products if they’re not sealed properly inside their packaging. That’s why you want to use several layers of protection. This should also prevent moisture transfer and oxidation from affecting your products.

It Prolongs Shelf Life

Packaging is also responsible for preventing food deterioration. Basically, it keeps products fresh as long as possible. For example, there are packaging solutions that are good at blocking oxygen from making contact with the food inside.

It Gives Shoppers Product Information

Shoppers use packaging to learn more about products they’re interested in. It lets them know who made the product, what the ingredients are, and how to prepare it. The packaging should also disclose warnings like if the product isn’t safe for people who are allergic to peanuts.

It Promotes the Brand

Businesses make the most of their packaging by including branding elements like their logos and taglines. They’ll even incorporate their company colors so people will recognize their products right away.

It Distinguishes Brands From Their Competitors

You can use your packaging to set your brand apart from competitors. Some do it by using distinct product packaging designs. Others make it a point to include their main differentiator. There are even those who use oddly shaped packaging to stand out on display shelves.

It Makes Shipping and Storing Products Convenient

Some products are difficult to store and ship as is. For example, you can’t ship jars without protective packaging because they break easily. They’re also hard to stack on top of one another. However, using shipping boxes makes it easier to deal with these issues.

Types of Food Packaging

Caviar Boxes and Labels by Golden Reserve Caviar
Caviar Boxes and Labels by Golden Reserve Caviar

There are different types of packaging you can use — each one having its purpose. 

Main Packaging

The main packaging is the one you use as a container for your food item. If you’re selling jam, then your main container would be the jar it comes in. Those in the pizza business will use a pizza box.

One packaging could be enough, especially for those selling in retail environments. But if you’re selling them online, you might need to invest in a second layer of packaging.

Inner Packaging

If one layer of packaging isn’t enough, then you might consider adding inner packaging. These should help make your products more secure. 

For example, cereal boxes would typically have plastic bags inside that hold everything together. That way, the cereal won’t come out if the box gets damaged during shipping. Some chocolate brands wrap their products individually before placing them inside the main box.

Outer Packaging

In most cases, you use outer packaging to protect food products during shipping. However, there are instances where businesses use them to bundle products together. For example, you’ll want to use a mailer box if you’re in the food subscription business.

Those that sell meal prep kits will also use outer packaging just to make it more convenient to fulfill bulk orders.

Food Packaging Materials

Pizza Boxes for Cookie Cakes by Madkind Design Studio
Pizza Boxes for Cookie Cakes by Madkind Design Studio

What are some of the packaging materials you can use for your food business? There are many options to choose from. Below are just some of the most popular packaging solutions.

Food Pouches

Food pouches are great for packaging food items, especially those that customers don’t consume in one sitting. Think of products like jerky, coffee, spices, dried fruits, baby food, and even pet treats.

Pouches can come with zippers that customers can use to reseal leftovers which keeps food fresh longer. You can display them on store shelves or hang them on pegs using hang holes.

Mailer Boxes

Mailer boxes are ideal for sending smaller food products. You can use them to store cookies, pastries, trail mixes, or specialty food items. 

They work as subscription boxes too. Or if you need to, use them for meal prep services. Mailer boxes can be shipped directly to customers. 

Candy Bags

For those with candy shops, you can use candy bags as a replacement for clear plastic bags. Not only is this good for branding, but these bags are more convenient to carry around for customers.

You can resize these bags to fit other food products. There are even bags specifically designed to carry wine or olive oil bottles. 

Cereal Boxes

If you’ve been thinking about starting a cereal brand, then you’ll need custom cereal boxes. You can make these as big or as small as you need. So whether you want to sell family- or snack-sized boxes, you have options.

These boxes can also be repurposed for other food products like crackers, popcorn, dried pasta, and chocolate bars.

Shipping Boxes

Shipping boxes are a necessity if you’re going to deliver food products to customers. Even more so if your customers tend to order in bulk.

You can order these boxes in custom sizes. However, you can save some money by ordering them in standard sizes instead. These are made from corrugated boards and they can be printed on the outside, inside, or both.

Food Packaging Accessories

Bakery Packaging Tape by Emily Retamozo
Bakery Packaging Tape by Emily Retamozo

Food packaging gets even better if you include accessories. You can use them to add special messages, provide more product information, promote upcoming events, and redirect people to your site or social media pages.

Business Cards

Leave a couple of business cards in your packages or hand them out to walk-in customers. They’re essential for restaurateurs who want to build connections with potential clients. They also need them for exchanging contact details with produce vendors and other suppliers.

Business cards are handy in situations where you bump into influencers who might want to try your products or services.

Thank You Cards

Your customers deserve all the love in the world. Why not show your appreciation for their business by giving them thank you cards

You can do more than just express your gratitude with these cards. Give loyal customers a promo code to keep them coming back. Or use them to introduce new products that you’re working on.


Flyers are a cost-effective replacement for menus. They’re just as effective for promoting new products and events. Some businesses use them to leave instructions on how to order products online.

You can use them for loyalty programs and reviews. If needed, you can have them educate your customers about your brand and products.


Labels are versatile packaging accessories. You can use them as jar or honey labels. You can print nutrition labels and stick them on clear plastic packaging. 

Seal mailer boxes using custom labels. This will keep your packages extra secure while discouraging theft during shipping. 

Food Packaging Tips

Gummy Bear Boxes by CandyCan
Gummy Bear Boxes by CandyCan

Here are a couple of tips for people who are ordering food packaging for the first time.

Keep the Design Simple

There’s no need to go overboard with the design. Sometimes it’s better to keep things simple. Your logo can be the focal point of your packaging. Use the sides of your box to provide all the necessary information.

Use Eco-Friendly Materials

Most consumers are environmentally conscious now. They want packaging that’s easy to recycle or reuse. When shopping for packaging materials, look for providers that offer eco-friendly packaging alternatives.

Make Them Convenient to Use and Carry

Some packaging solutions are more convenient than others. For example, pouches are resealable. That means customers won’t have to transfer their content into separate containers. They can keep them inside the pouches and keep their food fresh that way.


Food packaging refers to materials used to store products until customers are ready to consume them. They are also used to ship products to customers.

They’re responsible for keeping products fresh by keeping contaminants away. Businesses also use packaging to promote their brands and distinguish themselves from competitors.

There are different types of packaging you could use for your food business. What type to use will depend on the product you’re selling. You might also want to think about using packaging accessories to make your packages feel more special.

If you’re interested in packaging, here are other blog posts you might find interesting:

When you’re ready to order custom packaging for your business, head on over to PackM. Give us a call or chat with one of our representatives if you have questions or concerns.

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