There’s a lot on the line when choosing your packaging materials. Here’s an in-depth guide to all of your different packaging material options and how you can choose the best ones that meet all your needs:

What Are the Different Types of Packaging Materials?

The sky’s the limit when it comes to packaging materials. In fact, there are so many different materials out there that sorting through them all and choosing one can be quite overwhelming.

Thankfully, Box Genie is here to help by outlining the six main types of packing supplies: corrugated cardboard, paperboard, plastic, glass, polyethylene, and aluminum. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Corrugated Cardboard

Corrugated cardboard boxes are one of the most popular packaging materials for a reason. This material is usually made up of three different layers — two layers of liner and one “waved” layer — designed to provide plenty of cushion and protection for the package contents.

As a result, corrugated cardboard is extremely durable and is essentially crush-proof and puncture-proof. At the same time, corrugated cardboard is still lightweight and collapsible, which cuts down on shipping and storage costs.

There’s no shortage of different sizes and designs for corrugated cardboard packaging. For example, Box Genie offers four different corrugated box designs: mailer boxes, one-piece folder boxes, shipping boxes, and triangle document mailers. You can customize each of these boxes in terms of size and printing.

2. Paperboard

Paperboard looks a lot like corrugated cardboard in terms of size and shape, but there are a few key differences. Instead of consisting of multiple different layers of material, paperboard only consists of a single layer. As a result, paperboard is lighter but less durable than corrugated cardboard.

Paperboard packaging is ideal for retail products that are already on the shelf. Paperboard packaging is generally not recommended for products that need to be shipped since it’s not heavy duty enough to withstand the shipping process or offer adequate protection to contents. If you must use paperboard packaging for shipping, you must incorporate additional protective elements to prevent damage and breakage.

3. Plastic

Plastic is another great material for retail packaging as it’s clear and can showcase the product to customers and drive purchasing decisions. Plastic packaging tends to be lightweight, flexible, and relatively durable. One major strength of plastic packaging is that it can be sealed and isn’t affected by moisture.

At the same time, plastic packaging isn’t very environmentally friendly. This downside is something to consider when choosing your packaging, as consumers are increasingly concerned about sustainable shipping supplies and products.

Furthermore, if you consider yourself a “green” brand, you need to make packaging choices that reflect that value.

4. Glass

Glass as a packaging material is typically used in specific industries like the cosmetic industry and the food and beverage industry. For example, facial serums are usually sold in glass bottles, whereas tomato sauce is typically sold in glass jars.

While glass packaging can elevate a product, there are some serious downsides. First, glass is breakable and isn’t easily shipped without special protection. Second, glass is heavy and can add to shipping costs. And finally, glass packaging requires the use of labels for branding.

5. Polyethylene Bags

Polyethylene bags are an increasingly popular form of packaging made from plastic. However, unlike traditional plastic that’s mostly rigid and only slightly flexible, poly bags are extremely flexible. At the same time, poly bags are quite durable and offer moisture protection.

Since poly bags are extremely flexible, they aren’t very protective and aren’t recommended for fragile products. Instead, poly bags are commonly used for lightweight and unbreakable items, especially clothing and apparel.

6. Aluminum

Aluminum packaging is another great packaging material for retail. Using aluminum packaging over other materials allows a brand to stand out from the competition using more common materials like plastic.

Using highly recyclable aluminum packaging also shows that you’re an eco-conscious brand that cares about the environment. With aluminum packaging, you don’t have to sacrifice protection for sustainability, as it’s still highly protective. Perhaps the only weakness of aluminum packaging is that it can be heavier than other materials, and it’s more expensive.

Why Does Packaging Material Matter?

At this point, you might be questioning why you should even care about packaging materials. After all, you’re not an expert in cardboard, plastic, or glass packaging. However, you are an expert in your brand, and choosing the right packaging material is vital for the future growth of your brand.


The main purpose of packaging is to protect the contents of the package so that they reach the customer undamaged and intact. If you don’t invest in the right form of protective packaging for your materials, your customers are more likely to receive broken and damaged products.

It should go without saying that customers do not want to receive broken and damaged products, which can quickly lead to negative reviews and a hit to your overall reputation. So before you dismiss the importance of packaging, think of it as a form of customer service. From packing foam to bubble rolls and box dividers, your choices of the packaging inside and outside the box are crucial.


At the same time, packaging can quickly eat into your profits if you’re not careful. The balancing act between choosing protective yet cost-effective packaging can be challenging, so it’s important to understand all of the different options before you decide.

It’s also important to shop around with different packaging providers once you’ve chosen a specific material to ensure that you get the best possible pricing. With the right packaging, you can save money while also protecting your products.


Another function of packaging, surprisingly, relates to branding. When designed properly, packaging can act as free advertising for your brand. However, some materials are better billboards than others.

For example, with corrugated cardboard, you’re able to print directly onto the material without needing additional components like labels. And depending on the type of corrugated cardboard you choose, you may be able to achieve high-definition photo-quality results.

Personalizing your packing paper or packing tape is also possible, but printing your branding on the box itself is one of the most effective strategies.

How Can I Choose the Best Packaging Material?

Now that you fully understand the importance of your packaging material when it comes to protecting your products, saving money, and promoting your brand, it’s time to go through the process of choosing a packaging material by following these six steps:

Step 1: Consider Your Products

First, you need to consider your products. Fragile products like glassware would require a different packaging material than products like clothing, for example. Food items may also require a sealable packaging material.

Materials like corrugated cardboard are ideal for fragile items, poly or plastic bags are ideal for non-fragile items, and glass or aluminum is ideal for many food items.

Step 2: Consider Your Brand

Next, you need to consider your brand. Your packaging says a lot about your brand, who you are, and what you care about. If you’re not sure what you want to say with your packaging, you should think about your brand personality and values.

For example, if you’re a trendy and hip brand, you may want to use hip packaging like aluminum or poly bags. If you’re a green brand that cares about the environment, you may want to use recyclable packaging materials like corrugated cardboard, aluminum, and glass — avoiding materials like plastic that are not easily recycled.

Step 3: Consider Your Customers

Obviously, you also need to consider your customers when choosing your packaging material. After all, they’re the ones who are going to benefit from it the most! For starters, you want to choose packaging that’s easily opened. Packaging that’s impossible to open can quickly ruin a customer’s unboxing experience.

You also want to choose a packaging material that’s going to appeal to your customers’ values as well. So if your customers indicate that they care about the environment and are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging, you should listen to them and make green choices.

Fill empty spaces in your packaging with paper or cardboard fillers as opposed to plastic packing peanuts or bubble wrap, for example.

Step 4: Consider Your Shipping Method

One factor that’s often not considered when choosing your packaging material is the shipping method for your products. Packaging for products that need to be shipped from one end of the country to the other looks different from packaging for products that need to make it home from the store.

If you’re a direct-to-consumer brand that ships all across the country or even the world, you can’t really go wrong with corrugated cardboard packaging that’s durable, lightweight, and affordable. However, if you’re a retail brand, you can be more creative with other materials like glass, plastic, paperboard, and more.

Step 5: Consider Your Budget

Sometimes you might think that you found the perfect packaging and product moving supplies, only to find out that it doesn’t fit within your budget. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to establish your budget upfront so that you don’t waste time considering materials that you can’t afford.

If you’re looking for the most bang for your buck when it comes to your packaging material, you really can’t go wrong with corrugated cardboard, paperboard, or poly bags. Conversely, premium materials like glass, aluminum, and plastic are going to cost more.

Step 6: Consider Custom Packaging

No matter which packaging material you choose, you should definitely consider customizing it to take your packaging game to the next level. This advice applies to both retail and D2C brands. For example, if you’re a retail brand, you may want to consider a custom paperboard box, whereas if you’re a D2C brand, you may want to consider a custom mailer box.

Customizing your packaging helps you achieve your packaging goals by promoting your brand and protecting your products. Branded packaging that incorporates your company logo, colors, and fonts is a great marketing tool. Custom packaging in the right dimensions promotes a snug fit for your products and offers protection throughout the shipping process.

Find a Custom Packaging Provider

That being said, not all custom packaging is created equal. To maximize your return on investment, you need to work with an experienced packaging provider that offers premium products and printing.

Box Genie meets all these qualifications and then some with over 45 years in the business. Box Genie manufactures, cuts, prints, and glues all of our products in our own facility in the United States. Since we have such high quality standards, we never outsource, and we’re able to achieve quick turnaround times.

Box Genie: Your Custom Packaging Provider

If you’ve decided that corrugated cardboard is the right packaging material for you, then you definitely need to check out Box Genie’s line of packaging products. All of Box Genie’s products are fully customizable in terms of size and design, with online tools to help you create the perfect product. Reach out to our packaging experts today to learn more and get started.


Most Consumers Want Sustainable Products and Packaging | Business News Daily

3 Ways to Optimize Packaging to Protect Your Products | Entrepreneur

How to Choose Cost-Effective Retail Packaging Materials | Fit Small Business

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