Every packaged product brand embarks on their own packaging development journey. Many will go through multiple generations of packaging format, features, construction and size as they evolve.
A common approach for early stage companies is to source unprinted blank packaging and apply a customized adhesive backed (sticker) label. In the prototype or test market stage many founders design their own labels using common digital tools such as Canva, and print on home printers or at a local print shop. The pathway for brand owners who want to improve consumer appeal of their brand is to engage with companies that professionally design and print labels with custom shapes, sizes and protective finishes or coatings.
For some package formats a label will be the only long term option (ex: jars, bottles). As sales increase many brand owners move to the convenience and sophistication of pre-printed packaging (ex: stand up pouches, bags, boxes). Preprinted packaging can look professional but may come with increased cost, minimum orders, manufacturing considerations, longer lead times and complexity to update. Moving to printed packaging too quickly can be costly and lead to multiple changes down the road as the brand, product and manufacturing evolves. Retailers that support local start ups are open to early stage packaging formats, however larger national retailers are often looking for products with a big brand look.
Tips for researching printed packaging suppliers:
What services and products are offered:
Packaging: Brand owner may need to find artwork designer and a printer.
Printing: Brand owner may need to supply artwork digital files and the packaging.
Packaging and printing: Brand owner may need to supply artwork digital files.
Packaging, printing and artwork design: Simplified "one stop shop".
Minimum orders, pricing structure
Composition: recyclability, compostable, oxygen and light barriers, food appropriate, etc.
Features; closures, tamper evident seals, product protection, certifications, etc.
Shipping: weight, size when shipped (ex; jars vs flat pouches), distance.
Lead times: influenced by printing location and packaging inventory approach
Printing Method: Digital can have shorter lead time and lower cost (see Resource Library for details on digital printing vs. traditional printing methods)
Process and cost for artwork updates
Process to approve packaging or prototypes prior to the first full print run
Packaging selection is a key part of the product development process. Packaging samples should be tested for functionality, durability and impact to quality and shelf life. Testing should occur using the actual packaging equipment and filled samples should be viewed as the consumer would view them on the retailer shelf. In addition to meeting consumer needs, brand owners should consider retailer requirements for efficient use of shelf space.
For brand owners who plan to find a co-packer, large scale manufacturers typically have limitations on their packaging formats, and the options for packaging will be influenced by their capabilities. In some cases it is good timing to move to preprinted packaging after co-packers are confirmed.
To help companies on their packaging journey, the VL Packaging Supplier Leads resource includes a few of the many Canadian based packaging companies that work with small business.
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Written By: Venturepark Labs Team