How to Package Your Product


Designing packaging can be very exciting.   Your package is intimately connected to your brand and you want it to proudly showcase your product.

Taking the time to fully understand your packaging needs before you invest time and money will ensure you design a cost-effective package that will assist in the success of your product.

Before you begin, have you completed a thorough assessment of your packaging needs?

Do this first.  It will save you a mountain of headache later.

Packaging Needs Assessment

Woman researching how to package a product online

Streamline Your Packaging Process and Avoid Costly Mistakes

Taking the time to fully understand your packaging requirements BEFORE you invest time and money will ensure you design an effective package that meets all of your needs.

10 Steps to Successfully Package a Product

Step 1 – Define Your Target Market

Understanding the consumer of your product will help your graphics and structural designers create the most effective package to promote your brand.

The more detail you can provide, the easier it will be to develop a package that appeals to your target market.  For instance, does your product require tamper-evident seals, child-resistant caps, easy open or reclosable features, special labeling or multiple languages?

Clearly identifying your target market will assist in the development of the ideal package.

Providing your designer with this assessment will save you both a lot of time and effort and your designer will love you for it!


  1. Define Your Target Market
  2. Know Your Retailer or Distributor Requirements
  3. In-Store Placement
  4. Determine Your Product Needs
  5. Identify Internal Product Handling
  6. Select Packaging Suppliers
  7. Negotiate Supplier Agreement
  8. Create a Budget
  9. Launch Structural Design
  10. Launch Graphic Design


Target Audience

Gender, Age, Ethnicity, Language, Ability, Mobility, Location, Environment


Price as purchase motivation

Health, Fitness, Beauty, Image, Status, Convenience, Trends, Quality, Price

Buying Habits

Credit card icon

Where, How, When


3_Satisfaction Review

Customer reviews, Social media, Loyalty programs, Packaging, Return policy

Step 2 – Know Your Retailer or Distributor Requirements

Your customer may be a distributor or retailer and have very specific requirements for your product. Before you begin to develop packaging, it is important to understand these requirements so that you can cost-effectively design to meet those needs.

This is equally as important when you acquire a new customer for an existing product.

All of these criteria are important to assessing the needs of your packaging. Providing this information at the outset will assist your designers and suppliers in the initial stage of development.

How does your customer operate?

  • What are their expectations from your product, ie, do they have a minimum sales volume? what are the sales dollars/shelf space expectations?
  • Will they carry your product in inventory and if so, for how long?
  • What are the terms of sale – order lead-time; payment terms; in-store promotions; damaged product penalties; return policy for slow-moving items;  late delivery charges?
  • Do they require certifications such as food safety?
  • Do they have a sustainability initiative?

What happens to your product at the point of sale?

  • How is the product moved and handled?
  • How and where will it be displayed?
  • Are there common sizes and/or weights in your product category?

Where will your product be stored?

How will it be stored and under what conditions?

What are the palletizing specifications?

  • Type of pallet
  • Size of pallet
  • Maximum pallet height
  • Overhang specs
  • Part pallet policy
  • Pallet system (one-way, CHEP, CPC)

What are the case pack specifications?

  • Weight
  • Quantity

How will the product be shipped within their system?

  • Common Carrier or their own distribution
  • Mode – truck, rail, ship, air
  • Destination(s)

Step 3 – In-Store Placement

The shelf location where a product is sold is a key factor in the design of a retail package. Prior to developing a new package or redesigning an existing one, it is important to discover what is going on at the point of sale. It is equally important to know about pending changes being considered at the retail level.

Where and how the product will be displayed will help you choose the type of material and design of the package.

For instance, frozen products displayed in a stand-up freezer may be placed so that the front panel is facing the consumer or stacked so that the side panel faces out. Products might be hung on a peg or placed on a shelf. Items sold in retail-ready packaging will have to be shelf ready with the graphics displayed prominently. It is important to know the location to ensure the package maximizes shelf appeal and draws the attention of the consumer.

Another consideration is whether the retailer is planning to change the way products are displayed. Grocers are revamping stores to meet changing consumer buying habits and reduce operating costs. Some stores moved away from hanging cheese bags in favour of retail ready packaging and stand-up pouches as stocking them is time-consuming.

Ensure you know how products are, and will be, handled and displayed at the point of sale so that you can design a package that meets the needs of the retailer and provides optimal promotion for your product.

This is also a good time to conduct a competitor analysis to assess how your package branding and design will set you apart in the sea of other products.  Take photos and share them with your designer.

Step 4 – Assess Your Product Needs

Packaging can assist you in getting your products to market safely and effectively. In order to create the ideal package, you must assess the needs of the product.

Things to Consider:


  • Physical – identify what could potentially damage your product – odor, contamination, shock, vibration, static, compression
  • Temperature – determine if and how the product is temperature sensitive
  • Moisture – assess the importance of moisture and absorbency
  • Barrier – identify barrier requirements to keep the product stable and extend shelf life
  • Storage – determine protection required during handling, shipping, storage, and distribution


Assess the needs for safety, particularly if you are packaging food or beverage products.  Find out if the packaging supplier is required to have industry certifications to meet your customer and regulatory requirements.


Finally, there are sustainability considerations as far as the image you want for your brand, the availability and cost of materials, and the fees associated with recycling or disposal of the packaging after consumer use.

Step 5 – Internal Product Handling

While it is important to communicate your consumer and customer needs to your suppliers and designers, it is equally crucial that your expectations are identified as well. You can do this by reviewing your practices involved in the processing, storing and shipping of your product. This will enable your suppliers to recommend and create packaging that will perform to your requirements.

Here are some questions that will help you assess your packaging requirements as well as assist in determining order quantity and lead-time.

Communicating all of this information to your designers and suppliers will enable them to decide how to design and manufacture your packaging and allow them to provide you with accurate price quotations.

How will the product be shipped to your customer?

• Common Carrier or your own vehicle
• Mode – truck, rail, ship, air, courier
• Loading/unloading requirements
• Delivery lead-time

What is your storage capability?

• How and where the packaging is stored
• How and where your finished product is stored
• How much space you have allocated for packaging

What are your pallet requirements?

• Type of pallet
• Size of pallet
• Pallet storage

What is your processing time?

• Customer lead-time from order to delivery
• Product manufacturing
• Packaging
• Production capacity

How will you package the product?

• By hand – if so, how the package is handled
• Automatic equipment to fill and/or close the package

What types of packaging will you need?

• Primary (bag, box, can, bottle, bin, etc.)
• Secondary (overwrap, containment package)
• Tertiary (shipping container – usually a corrugated box)
• Tape/glue
• Labels to identify the contents
• Pallet wrap or strapping
• Pallets

Step 6 – How to Choose A Packaging Supplier

Packaging is a critical supply item crucial to your product sales. It has to be what you need when you need it! Your supplier can have a significant impact on your business and the relationship may be a long one so it is important to know with whom you are dealing.

Packaging safety is a big responsibility. Consumers are placing increased emphasis on product safety and security.  Does your packaging supplier meet your needs?

Step 7 – Choosing a Packaging Supplier – 4 Points

Stability – you may have invested in design tooling such as printing plates, cutting dies or forming molds that are specific to a supplier. If the supplier goes out of business, you may have to pay for these again. Finding new or changing suppliers can be risky and take time, crippling your ability to meet your customers’ demands during the transition.

Reliability – investigate their quality and service levels and, most importantly, discuss their guarantee of supply. You can consult with other companies and even ask the supplier for references. Find out why companies chose that particular supplier and why others did not. Research their reputation in the market.

Credibility – there may be specific certifications required for your product. Ensure the supplier meets these requirements.

Professionalism – assess their responsiveness to inquiries for quotes, designs, and samples.

Retail customers are putting more responsibility on their suppliers to deliver a safe, quality product on time. They do not want to hold inventory, so order lead-times are shorter than ever. For you to compete, it is essential that you have reliable, dynamic suppliers that can meet your current needs, help you grow and keep you competitive.

How to write a packaging supplier agreementSupplier Agreements – What You Need to Know

It is important to know your packaging suppliers and their capabilities so that you can decide how to order, understand all the costs, and are comfortable that the packaging will be received when and how you need it.

Packaging is a critical supply item – one that you cannot go without. Ensuring you understand your supplier’s abilities will allow you to plan accordingly.

It is always good business practice to discuss all expectations and terms of the SUPPLIER AGREEMENT prior to placing your first order.

Questions to Ask Your Packaging Supplier BEFORE Your First Order

How will the packaging be shipped to you?

Mode – truck, rail, ship, air
Carrier – common or their vehicle
Unloading process

How will the packaging arrive?

Type of pallets
Pallet system (some are returnable)
Bulk pack
Individual containers

What are their storage capabilities?

Food safe
Square footage allocation for your packaging (if holding inventory)

What is their lead-time?

Design creation and samples
Price quotation
Order processing
Raw material

What services do they offer?

Structural design
Graphic design

What are the costs for tooling?

Printing plates
Replacement/life cycle

What are their terms of sale?

Price increase/decrease policies

What certifications do they have?

Do you or your customers require certifications such a Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), food safety, etc.

Step 8 – Budget For Your Packaging

Budget PlannerTake the time to prepare a budget for your packaging prior to pricing your product. There are numerous components to consider and, as well as the actual cost of the materials, there can be additional tooling and design costs. You will want to consider all of these prior to committing to a price for your product.

Budgeting will enable you to make the right packaging choice that will fit your cost structure. The Budgeting calculator is designed to give you an idea of the items to include. Your suppliers can assist you in choosing packaging that will fit your particular needs.

Download Budget Calculator

Step 9 – Designing the Package

The various types of packaging required to get the product through the distribution system are interdependent. This is because the size, shape, density, weight, and case count of the primary and secondary packaging determines the type, strength, and size of the shipping container. It also impacts the pallet configuration.

There can be significant reductions in shipping costs by designing the structure of the primary package along with the master shipping container.

This is why it is important to understand your customer’s distribution system and packaging specifications PRIOR to designing any of the packaging.

Getting products through the distribution channel to the end consumer can be quite a journey and the products may be handled numerous times using various methods, potentially causing damage. There are a number of options and materials available to optimize the safe containment, handling, transport, and storage of your product. Incorporating these into your packaging design will reduce costs and ensure your product reaches the point of sale safely and intact.

Optimize the Safe Containment, Handling, Transport & Storage of Your Product

Type and size of pallet
Pallet configuration (how the items are placed and stacked)
Maximum/minimum pallet height
Pallet load weight (stacking strength)
Stacking (slip sheets, caps, layer sheets)
Unitizing (stretch wrap, shrink wrap, strapping, corner posts)
Master shipping container (tray, box, bin, crate, etc.)
Material specifications (moisture resistance, strength)
Design specifications
Protective packaging (bubble wrap, foam, inserts)

Depending on your customers’ needs, varying specifications may require customized sizes and materials which can increase the number of packaging units and cost. It may be more cost-effective to design for one common container that will meet all the specifications, but this will depend on a number of factors including sales volumes and shipping costs.

It is also important to know how and where your customer will be distributing the products as the packaging has to stand up through their distribution system as well.

Once you have a clear understanding of exactly how your product will be handled you can tap into the skills, knowledge, and experience of packaging designers. They will assist you in determining the best method of protection through the distribution system.

Adequately protecting your product from manufacture to the point of sale will ensure that you meet the needs of your consumer and your customer eliminating unnecessary costs for returns and/or product losses.

Step 10 – Graphic Designs for Packaging

Creating new graphic designs for product packaging takes time and can be costly so it is important to build realistic estimates into your project launch timeline. You need to include time to carefully and diligently proofread all of the information on the package because you take the responsibility when you sign off on the final proof.

To achieve the best results, use a packaging designer!

Build in adequate time for the development process and do not commit to a product launch date until the design is in the final approval stage. If a launch date has been predetermined, be sure to work backward from the delivery date, factoring in the printer’s lead-times.
Realize that graphic designers bill by the hour. A designer will likely build minor revisions into the initial quote but major revisions and redesigns can be costly. Be sure to establish a clear understanding of which revisions the designer will include and which will require an additional charge.
Use a packaging designer familiar with the printer’s specifications.
Try to avoid revisions.

Steps to creating graphic designs for new products:

  1. Determine product and packaging, including all containment and shipping containers required to bring your product to market
  2. Select packaging supplier(s)
  3. Appoint a graphic designer (preferably one familiar with packaging)
  4. Develop ingredient/nutritional information
  5. Determine labeling information/symbols and processing time for approvals
  6. Request UPC code
  7. Schedule time for the designer to conduct a photo shoot of the product or select images
  8. Supply printer die line and specifications to the designer
  9. Review, approve or revise design proof
  10. Send proof to packaging printer for approval
  11. Proof all copy (professional proofing recommended)
  12. Approve final artwork

Once the artwork is finalized the:

  • Design studio sends final art, signed colour proof and drawdowns to printer
  • Printer outputs pre-press colour proof
  • Designer may schedule a press side approval of the first printing if colour matching is critical