What is Packaging?

Packaging is something you encounter every day. It contains the food you buy, the household products you use, the electronics you buy and more. But while you might be familiar with the idea of packaging in general, how much do you really know about packaging? 

We’re here to dive into the detail to help you understand a little more about packaging.

The three types of packaging

When you think of types of packaging, you probably think of square, round, paper or plastic – there are a lot of possibilities when it comes to ‘types of packaging’. However, packaging can actually be broken down into three different types: primary, secondary and tertiary.


Primary packaging is the term to describe packaging that is the closest to the product. It’s also known as either consumer or retail packaging. It’s what you’re most likely to see in front of you when you eat or drink or use something. 

Primary packaging could be the packaging that surrounds a candy bar or a bottle of water. The label will also be considered a part of the primary packaging. Primary packaging also refers to blister packs used in the pharmaceutical industry to contain painkillers, etc.

There has been an increasing demand to make primary packaging more sustainable. The United States generates more plastic waste than any other nation, contributing 42 million metric tons a year. Of this, less than 10% is recycled.

As primary packaging accounts for a lot of consumer products, including individual items, there’s a growing need to ensure this packaging is sustainable and easily recyclable to protect the planet. Consumers want it, and brands want to develop it to help them promote more sustainable practices. 


Secondary packaging, meanwhile, is the packaging used to display a product. It features the product’s branding and is usually designed to make it easy to carry and stack products. 

A good example of secondary packaging is when you buy a multipack of drinks cans or bottles. The secondary packaging houses all of the individual items. It would also refer to the cardboard packaging surrounding a blister pack.

Secondary packaging is important for both brands and consumers. From a marketing perspective, it gives a company the chance to display their branding. Secondary packaging is a popular choice to reflect a re-brand. Think of it as the window display to your products. 


Tertiary packaging is the packaging that will protect a product during the shipping process. It’s an essential consideration for distribution processes, as products need to arrive at their destination safely.

When you order something online, the packaging your item is delivered in is the tertiary packaging. It could be a box, a bag, an envelope or other type of packaging. 

Tertiary packaging is also in the spotlight in terms of sustainability. While recycled materials are often used to produce tertiary packaging, it’s important to consider the optimization of this packaging going forward to help reduce waste and carbon emissions, and provide the end-recipient with packaging they can either recycle, or use themselves.

Are there exceptions?

The distinction between primary and secondary packaging isn’t as clear as it may seem. There are examples where the packaging becomes both the primary and the secondary packaging. A good example of this is a bag of chips from a vending machine – which will have the label and branding printed on it that would typically appear on the secondary packaging if you were buying a multipack at a grocery store. 

Tertiary packaging, meanwhile, remains largely separate, making it easier to identify and recognize this type of packaging.

Packaging with DiD

As a brand, it’s important that your packaging reflects your branding and is recognizable to consumers. It’s also important that your packaging keeps the product safe and secure, whether it’s being shipped or distributed, or being carried home from a store by a consumer.

Innovation is an essential component of packaging design, helping to develop new ideas to meet the needs of industries and consumers, as well as looking to do things better, quicker and more affordably too.

At DiD, we specialize in developing packaging that combines design and innovation to provide the best to our clients. If you’d like to talk to us about your packaging needs, we’re here to help. Contact DiD today and discuss your packaging goals with us.