The plastic tray or bag is referred to as the primary packaging, while the outer box or wrapper is referred to as the secondary packaging. Primary and secondary packaging are both seen by the consumers at their retail provider. When the products are delivered to a store, they are usually packed in bigger boxes (distribution/tertiary packaging). These corrugated boxes are usually packed full to protect the product and to allow ease of handling to and at the store. At plants, these tertiary/distribution packages may be packed on a pallet. The pallet is referred to as the unit load/quaternary package.
The figure demonstrates how this might work with a cookie product that is packed in a plastic tray and has an outer wrapper that was packed in a bigger box.
In order to determine what packaging should be used, first consider the type of product that you are producing. Are you making snack crackers, cereal, or cookies? It is important to establish what sort of product it will be, and what the regulations are for this particular product.
The type of packaging will most likely differ for products with changing flow properties and physical form. If the product is meant to be distributed frozen, how will the packaging be different? Is the product’s shelf-life short? Does the product mold easily? Taking all of the product considerations into play is important to determine the packaging material that is most appropriate. FDA has specific “Definitions of Food Types and Conditions of Use for Food Contact Substances.”
Prior to choosing packaging, it is important to consider all product attributes and the traits that you would like a package to have. Another important consideration is the radius of distribution. A product susceptible to breakage by vibration or drops will incur significantly less damage when distributed in a 100-mile radius than it will with nationwide distribution. The way that individual packages are boxed and palletized can help eliminate some damage.
Packaging is a form of marketing to consumers. More sophisticated designs may take special packaging materials; therefore packaging engineers should be involved in discussing design, shape, and any special functions that are desired for the product. Another important consideration
that is important is the shelf display requirements for grocers. Will the package be displayed by a hanger as some candies are displayed?
Will the product’s package contain any features? Features include easy open bags or resealable packaging. It may also be important to consider the ease of recycling some products, as consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious. The packaging is a marketing tool.
Legal restrictions can include regulations for the use of certain packaging materials or infringing on patented technologies. All packaging materials are given approval by the FDA, just like food additives. Other
considerations are religious restrictions, such as the kosher packaging stipulations for Jewish customers. Food additives that come into contact with food as part of packaging are considered as Indirect Food Additives.
Potential designs should meet all marketing, design, safety, and functional requirements. Estimated costs will be considered in this step.
The packaging engineer should obtain some packaging materials to determine whether the packaging material will function on the equipment in place. In these tests, it is beneficial to subject the food to the packaging material to determine how the packaging will change the food, or if it will provide for the minimum shelf-life requirements.
Will the cost of this packaging be recouped by product purchases? Can the cost be cut down? Important factors in this phase are to determine when the packaging materials will be needed and when they can be provided. Cost is an important factor in an organization’s decisions.
In products with extended shelf-life, it will be very important to determine the weaknesses of the packaging, and if it will hold up for the product’s entire life. Consumers' input may be important to establish their preference prior to moving forward with a certain design. The shelf-life and safety of the product should be determined prior to consumer exposure. When the product design is well-accepted by consumers and meets company specifications, the packaging and product can go into full production.
The packaging is a very important factor in food processing that contributes to the shelf-life, quality, and appeal of products. Packaging materials can add or eliminate costs, demonstrate to consumers the quality standard of your product, and renew the product’s image. Packaging, therefore, should be chosen with much contemplation.
METHODS for DEVELOPING NEW FOOD PRODUCTS
An Instructional Guide
FADI ARAMOUNI, Ph.D. Professor of Food Science
Kansas State University
KATHRYN DESCHENES, M.S.
Food Science, Deschenes Consulting, LLC
Leading image: Teerasak Ladnongkhun/Shutterstock.com