Sourceful Blog

What to consider when choosing a packaging material

Ali Straessle · Nov 30th, 2021 · 5 min read

Packaging has many roles. It has to protect your product, communicate your brand, comply with any regulations and be easy to dispose of. And the material you choose plays a massive part in this. That's why it's important to get it right.

Here are some key factors to consider when choosing your packaging material.

Durable materials

Protecting your product is the main purpose of packaging. And choosing durable materials will help it do this. Corrugated cardboard, for example, is a great material that provides strength and durability. In the middle of corrugated cardboard is fluting, a wavy layer of paper which makes the corrugated strong and rigid. There are different types of fluting, which range in thickness and strength to best accommodate your packaging needs.

Another durable material is kraft paper. It's one of the strongest packaging papers because it's made by the sulphate pulping process. This removes most of the lignin (a complex chemical compound) present in wood, which increases the paper's strength. Kraft paper can be found in packaging like mailer boxes and paper mailer bags, or as a material for packaging accessories like stickers and tape.

If you're unsure about which material to choose, order samples. You can then test these out for both quality and durability.

Sustainable materials

Today, sustainability is a key factor in packaging. Along with being a growing focus for governments, it's also a top priority for consumers. Choosing eco-friendly packaging materials can help your business lower its carbon footprint, promote sustainable brand values and reach sustainability targets.

To choose the best sustainable material for your business, you need to consider your product. Compostable materials, for example, work well for food products because they're non-toxic and won't contaminate food. They do, however, have a short shelf life and so are best suited for fresh food products or takeaway packaging where food is consumed instantly. For long shelf life products, a material like glass may work better. Whilst glass is more resource-intensive to produce, it can be recycled multiple times without deteriorating. Or it can be reused as part of a refillable solution. It's important to understand the trade-offs between different materials before you make a decision on which to choose.

Material cost

The cost of your packaging material should consider both price and environmental impact. Traditional materials such as plastic might be cheaper and more widely available, but they're subject to taxes like the new Plastic Packaging Tax. They can also be more difficult to dispose of correctly and most plastic ends up in landfill. This is where choosing sustainable materials can be an advantage. Although more expensive, sustainable materials generally use renewable or recycled materials which complies with new green regulations and reduces waste. They're also often lighter and thinner than traditional materials. This means you have an overall lower material cost per unit, reduced transport and shipping costs, and a lower carbon footprint. That's why sustainable materials can be more cost-effective in the long run.

In 2019, Coca-Cola's Dasani water brand made the switch from plastic to aluminium cans in a move to reduce packaging waste. As the aluminium weighed less than the plastic, the company was able to cut their transportation costs and lower their carbon emissions. The decision also made it easier for consumers to recycle the cans.

Reputable suppliers

It's important to work with a reputable supplier because they provide the materials for your packaging. A good supplier will be able to find a manufacturer to meet your demands, provide you with alternate options when needed and ensure the materials you choose follow regulations.

If you're trying to source a niche material, partner with a sourcing specialist. When Blue Elvin, a women's sportswear brand, was designing their packaging, they knew Sourceful had the sourcing expertise and network of suppliers to help with their material requests. They were searching for stone paper, which is infinitely recyclable, to create a mailer. And for Tyvek, which is waterproof and resistant to bacteria, to create a reusable pouch. Both materials were incredibly difficult to source for an early-stage start-up with limited funds and time constraints. By partnering with Sourceful they were able to source both materials in time for their launch, with the added bonus of cutting costs by 33%.