When it comes to packaging, there’s more than meets the eye. In fact, there are actually three different types of packaging—two of which you probably didn’t even know about. Thankfully, we are here to tell you everything you need to know about the three different types of packaging.

Primary Packaging

The first type of packaging is known as primary packaging. This is likely the type of packaging that you’re the most familiar with since it’s designed to actually touch the product. Primary packaging may also be referred to as retail packaging or consumer packaging used for consumer packaged goods or CPG. 

Here are some examples of primary packaging to give you a better idea of what it actually looks like in practice: 

  • The plastic bottle that holds your shampoo
  • The paper carton that holds your milk or orange juice
  • The plastic tub that holds your butter or margarine 
  • The plastic bag that holds your potato chips
  • The cardboard box that holds your cereal

Now that you have a better idea of what primary packaging looks like let’s talk about what it does. First of all, primary packaging is designed to actually contain a product so that it can be sold. Can you imagine trying to sell liquids like shampoo or milk without packaging? Things would get very messy. 

On a similar note, packaging is also designed to protect a product from damage before, during, and after transit. As a result, primary packaging needs to be tough and strong to prevent damage and spoilage. 

Finally, packaging should be designed to promote the product itself as well as the brand. Packaging can help your products stand out amongst the competition on crowded shelves. It can also help provide consumers with the information they need to go ahead with the purchase. Finally, it can communicate with consumers what your brand stands for and represents. 

Different Types of Primary Packaging

There are also different types to choose from within primary packaging itself depending on what you’re shipping and where it’s going. Here are some of the different types of primary packaging you should know about. 

  • Chipboard boxes: These boxes are one of the thinnest and most lightweight primary packaging options available. This means that they are easy and cheap to both store and buy. Chipboard is ideal for lightweight products that don’t require much protection or insulation. For example, chipboard is often used for cereal boxes. 
  • Paperboard boxes: These boxes are also thin and lightweight, although less so than chipboard. Paperboard is made from wood or recycled paper that’s then bleached and cut into different colors and sizes. Paperboard is ideal for lightweight products that may require a bit of protection but are not fragile by any means. 
  • Corrugated cardboard boxes: These boxes are also lightweight, but they are thicker since they contain three different layers of material. The middle layer consists of recycled paper arranged in a zig-zag pattern to provide strength and rigidity to the packaging. As a result, corrugated cardboard boxes are ideal for products that are heavier or need more protection. 
  • Rigid boxes: These boxes are seen as luxury or high-end packaging solutions for more expensive products. Rigid boxes are not easily collapsible like other types of boxes—which makes them more expensive to store. They’re also heavier than other types of boxes—which makes them more expensive to transport. However, they are frequently used for expensive items like electronics and jewelry since consumers expect to get what they paid for—both with the product and the packaging. 
  • Plastic boxes: These boxes are lightweight, but they are also clear—giving them an advantage over their cardboard counterparts. With plastic boxes, consumers are able to clearly see the product, so there’s no need for pictures or detailed descriptions. Plastic boxes are also relatively durable and strong—providing adequate protection for many products. 

How To Design Primary Packaging

As you now know, one of the functions of primary packaging is to market your products and promote your brand. But how can you achieve this through packaging? In this case, you need to go custom. 

When you customize your packaging with your brand logos, colors, fonts, etc., you can promote a strong and cohesive brand image. Consumers will easily be able to identify your products on the shelves. They will also be able to tell what your brand is all about if you design your packaging correctly. 

Let’s start with the type of packaging, for example. Choosing environmentally friendly packaging tells consumers that you care about the environment. In a world where consumers increasingly care about the environment and sustainable products, this is always a good stand to take. 

Furthermore, the colors that you use on your packaging also say a lot about your brand thanks to the psychology of color. For instance, a package designed solely with black and white will send a very different message than a package designed with yellow and orange. 

Finally, you still need to explicitly tell consumers about your brand and products on the packaging. Tell them what the product does and why they should buy it. Provide any relevant information, including ingredients, expiration dates, manufacturers, pricing, etc. 

Secondary Packaging

The second type of packaging is known as secondary packaging. This layer of packaging is used to ship products that are already secured within their primary layer of packaging. In most cases, secondary packaging is used to hold multiple units together before, during, and after shipping. 

In some cases, like in CPG, secondary packaging is used as display packaging in retail locations like grocery stores. The goal of this type of packaging is to protect the products and the primary packaging. Like primary packaging, it can also provide promotional branding during shipping and display. 

A great example of secondary packaging is the cardboard box that holds soda or beer bottles. These boxes are usually designed to hold six bottles at a time and come with branded designs similar to that seen in the primary packaging—in this case, the glass bottles that actually hold the liquid. 

Outside of CPG, however, secondary packaging looks and functions differently. In this case, since secondary packaging is only used for transport purposes and isn’t actually seen by the consumer, it’s not usually branded at all. Instead, the main purpose of secondary packaging is protection. 

Tertiary Packaging

The third and final type of packaging is known as tertiary packaging. This layer of packaging is the outermost layer that encompasses both primary and secondary packaging. 

Unsurprisingly, the main goal of this type of packaging is to protect the products and other layers of packaging during the shipping process. Since this layer of packaging is rarely seen by consumers, it’s not usually branded. 

Some examples of tertiary packaging include pallets, wood crates, bands, strapping, and stretch wrap. These packaging types are designed to be extremely durable and protective as they are able to provide insulation and security to contents. 

Wrap Up on Types of Packaging

As you can see, there’s more to packaging than just plain cardboard boxes. Instead, there are three distinct layers with different purposes and designs. If you’re looking for help designing appealing and effective primary packaging for your products, reach out to the packaging experts at Box Genie



  1. Packaging Types Explained: What the Heck Is Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Packaging? | Conner Industries
  2. Your Customers Prefer Sustainable Products | Business News Daily
  3. Color Psychology | Color Psychology

Trusted by top brands worldwide. Dedicated to smaller businesses like yours.

Over 2,000 brands trust us to help them grow and build successful businesses. Find out how custom packaging can work to help take your brilliant brand to the next level!

  • Black & Decker logo
  • Bose logo
  • Canon logo
  • Ecologic logo
  • Sergeant's logo

“They can’t be beat for price, speed, and quality. We trust them with all our packaging needs!”

Megan D., CEO at SSBD

“They can’t be beat for price, speed, and quality. We trust them with all our packaging needs!”

Megan D., CEO at SSBD

Ready to design your own box?

Start building your custom box now to see a preview of how it will look!