Your packaging material lays the foundation for your branding and product presentation.

While materials may seem simple enough, choosing the right one for your project can be quite a daunting task, especially since your product success very much depends on it. 

First and foremost it’s important to consider what industry you’ll be serving. Whether it’s the e-commerce industry, restaurant industry or retail industry, your material will highly depend on your product needs.

Determining the Packaging Budget

Before thinking about packaging materials, take a moment to budget your costs and think about your product’s weight and dimensions.

This will help you understand the pure cost of just the materials and the shipping cost of the item itself.

Custom packaging is difficult to put a definite price tag on because the factors are highly dependent on your choices. 

If you’re not sure where to start, we have a guide to estimating packaging costs and how to reduce them for your business.

While determining your budget for your overall packaging project is the priority here, it’s definitely worth looking into the costs of each component to establish a cost optimization strategy. 

It is a common misconception that choosing the highest quality and more expensive materials will result in the best quality packaging. 

While it is true that customers are willing to pay a little more for premium packaging because of the added value of your materials, it’s not always worth the hassle.

Example of rigid box
Source: PakFactory

Premium packaging, like rigid paperboard, may require additional materials to protect your custom boxes during shipping and storing. This inevitably will drive up your costs, much higher than you might initially expect. 

The truth is, you can opt for cost effective packaging materials and still achieve that high end feel you’re looking for

For example, folding cartons are a great, cost effective alternative to rigid packaging. Because it is a flexible material, it offers a huge range of printing and finishing capabilities that create a luxury feel for your packaging.   

The key to determining your material budget is to distinguish between what you want your packaging to be and what you need your packaging to do.

Distribution and Storage Considerations

Having a good understanding of your product’s life cycle will help you determine the optimal packaging material for your project. 

Your product life cycle includes factors such as:

  • Storage
  • Distribution
  • Shipping destinations
  • Retail display requirements 

How your product will be stored, distributed and shipped will be prime considerations for your packaging materials. 

Ultimately, packaging is there to protect and support your product to ensure it lands in your customers hands intact. So, it’s important to consider how your packaging will perform in each of these conditions.

This also heavily depends on your product, if you have a product that is particularly fragile or heavy, opting for strong, durable packaging will be your priority.

For example; corrugated fibreboard is great for e-commerce businesses because it is a thick, durable texture that ensures optimal support and protection to any product. 

The type of transportation for your shipping also plays an important role for your packaging material considerations. 

This will give you a better idea of what conditions your packaging will be exposed to, in turn allowing you to tailor your packaging not only to your budget but to your packaging quality expectations. 

Ideally you should pick a material that will fit seamlessly into your product cycle and ensure it is compatible with all the channels and machinery you may use to package your product. 

Ensuring your packaging can sustain all the processes and still keep your products intact should be your top priority when it comes to custom product packaging.

It is much more cost effective in the long run to cover any costs that will ensure your products’ safety and durability. This way you avoid complete product recalls, which could end up costing you much more than your initial custom packaging costs. 

Example of corrugated box
Source: PakFactory

Finding a good balance between the cost of your packaging material and the durability of your product puts you in a really good position to meet your production budget and consumer demands. 
If your packaging is being designed with physical retail spaces in mind, it’s best to consult and stick to the retailer’s requirements and recommendations for your packaging.

Retailers will often set out requirements for packaging to ensure they have the space and capability to store and stock your products. This will most likely be a driving factor for not only your material choices, but your structural choices as well.

Comparing Material Characteristics

Here we will discuss the most popular materials available for your packaging considerations. 

Ultimately, there are 3 main box materials to consider:

These materials cover most of your choices. However, if you are working with a solution provider they will be able to give you substantial advice on your material options.

Let’s dive a little deeper into your material choices and their advantages!

Corrugated Fibreboard

Made from three layers of brown kraft paper, corrugated cardboard boxes are the ones you’re likely most familiar with.

This tends to be one of the most common packaging materials.

Here’s why they continue to be popular across e-commerce and other industries:

  • Protective structure with some cushioning qualities
  • Lightweight = lower shipping costs
  • Easily customizable
  • Recyclable

Corrugated packaging offers great durability for e-commerce businesses who rely on shipping their products directly to their customers.

With printing and finishing capabilities of this material being quite vast you’re able to use this as part of your marketing strategy to ensure your customers remember your brand!

Corrugated packaging allows for both exterior and interior printing.

Using this to your advantage as an e-commerce business is essential as it allows you to stand out in that crowded mail room or simply enhance the unboxing experience from the comfort of your customers’ homes.

Learn more about corrugated packaging.

Folding Carton

Folding carton is one of the best packaging options for lightweight products.

There are various folding carton types, making it a very versatile packaging material option that can work for many different kinds of products.

Available flat or pre-glued, there is a lot of flexibility when you design folding carton packaging.

You can choose to create packaging with unique structural designs and high-quality prints, making it an attractive retail and consumer product option.

Example of folding carton
Source: PakFactory

Folding carton boxes are also a popular choice for packaging due to their sustainable nature.

There are a lot of environmental benefits to using folding cartons since they are 100% recyclable!

Advantages of folding carton include;

  • Versatile printing and finishing capabilities
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Retail friedly
  • Great for light weight products

On the other hand, some drawbacks include;

  • Not good for heavy or fragile products
  • Not good for e-commerce 
  • Easily crushed

Learn more about folding carton. 


Rigid packaging is made from the highest quality thick paper grade.

Rather than having a simple dieline that allows you to fold your box into shape, rigid packaging is a little more complex than that and requires a great deal of construction.

Each side of the box is individually wrapped, printed on and carefully assembled to create your box.

The production and construction of this type of packaging is what makes it so costly!

Although rigid packaging is costly, businesses opt for this packaging to communicate a high end luxury feel and to enhance the unboxing experience for their customers.

Furthermore, rigid packaging offers endless printing, finishing and design capabilities that will elevate your brand narrative and ultimately boost your sales!

According to Packmojo 61% of consumers say they are much more likely to repeat a purchase of a luxury product if it came in premium packaging.

Rigid packaging impacts the environment more than corrugated or folding carton, since there are more components and processes needed to create this kind of packaging.

However, because rigid packaging is also known as ‘premium packaging’ or ‘luxury packaging’ customers are more likely to reuse and keep these types of boxes for other purposes in their homes!

Rigid packaging is a good option for:

  • Luxury products
  • Stability
  • Promoting reusable narratives

On the other hand:

  • Not cost-effective
  • Leads to a higher environmental impact to create the packaging
  • Higher shipping costs

Learn more about rigid (set-up) boxes.

Establishing Sustainability Efforts

Sustainable packaging has come more into focus over the past few years as customers become more environmentally conscious.

Because of this increased demand for eco-friendly packaging materials, there has been considerable developments in creating recyclable packaging materials that are beautiful and functional.

Specific industries like e-commerce businesses have been more sensitive to the shift and quickly adapted their packaging materials to become more eco-friendly.

For example, using plant based plastics, recycled corrugated fibreboard and cutting down on materials wastage. 

Example of sustainable packaging for a sustainable product
Source: PakFactory

Any custom packaging expert you work with should have sustainable materials available and should demonstrate a real commitment to ensuring lowered carbon footprints in their process, if you’re creating your packaging with your customers in mind.

If cost is a factor, bear in mind that research has found that customers are willing to pay higher premiums if they receive products in eco-friendly packaging materials.

So, it’s definitely worth investing in!

Evaluating Branding Opportunities

Keeping your target market at the forefront of your packaging design is also an important factor to choosing your ideal material. 

At the end of the day, your customer satisfaction and retention is all that really matters to ensure your product success. 

Make sure to really establish your brand narrative, this will help you choose materials that can accommodate your artwork and structural design needs more effectively. 

The material you choose will ultimately reflect back onto your brand, so make sure you are meeting consumer demands when it comes to your branding opportunities and materials. 

Any disconnect between your materials and design will be damaging to your brand reputation and in turn take away from your brand authority in the marketplace. 

Market research is a great way to learn more about your niche, customers and competitors.

Make sure you’re taking your competitor designs into consideration when choosing your own materials and designs. 

The goal is to do it better than your competitors already have!

Considering the Unboxing Experience

Whatever your product is, consumers’ first interaction with your brand is your packaging. The packaging is what drives anticipation for your products and enhances the overall experience. 

Unboxing videos have experienced a sort of renaissance in today’s day and age. 

There has been a huge increase of unboxing content on every social platform, YouTube in particular, that it simply can’t be ignored for your packaging considerations. 

When choosing your packaging material and structure, keep the unboxing experience in mind.

The unboxing experience plays into the share-ability of not only the product but your brand too. 

Creating appealing packaging will encourage your customers to share their experiences online, in turn gaining your brand more exposure and authority in the market.

Example of share-able packaging
Source: PakFactory

Customers value functionality and practicality when it comes to your packaging. So, make sure you are choosing materials that can be constructed in a user-friendly way.

For example, if you are choosing to go with rigid packaging, it’s best to choose a structure that your customers can easily open, close and reuse. 

Structural designs such as collapsible rigid boxes or magnetic rigid boxes are a great way to create a functional and attractive unboxing experience. 

In terms of materials, choosing finishes and coatings such as matte gloss or foil stamping, will make your packaging feel and look more high quality.

So, choosing a material that has a wide range of finishing capabilities will allow you to create an unforgettable unboxing experience. 

Folding cartons offer an array of finishing capabilities along with rigid packaging that also offers an array of special finishes. 

All in all, it’s important to have a good idea of the considerations involved in choosing your ideal packaging materials. 
Afterall, the material is the first step to the rest of your custom packaging journey.

Still not sure what packaging material your product needs? Get in contact with our product specialists today to discuss your ideal options!


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