Innovative + Sustainable Packaging Ideas

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Innovative and Eco-Friendly Packaging Ideas | Sage Design Group

Initial perceptions endure, and you typically only have a few seconds to attract the attention of a potential consumer or buyer while occupying shelf space. Your product packaging is the first thing that people see and hopefully this article will assist with some clever packaging ideas to help get your creative juices flowing.

Packaging Categories

Click on the tabs below to learn more about each of the types of packaging with examples.

  • Primary
  • Secondary
  • Tertiary
  • Ancillary
Primary Packaging | Sage Design Group

Primary packaging is the packaging that is the closest thing to touch the actual product and the last piece of packaging between your product and the end user.

The significance of primary packaging is related to customer experience, with emphasis on both utility and appearance. Your primary packaging should include branding elements such as key phrases, signature color schemes, custom text, marketing copy, and so on. For example, food, pharmaceuticals, and personal care products must include custom copy like ingredients and directions.

Examples of primary packaging are lotion in a bottle, chips in a bag, soda in a can, etc.

• Tubes
• Bottles
• Jars
• Cans
• Wrappers
• Bags
• Boxes

• Blister Packs
• Clamshells
• Pumps
• Sprays
• Trays
• Cartons
• Vials

Secondary Packaging | Sage Design Group

Secondary packaging is the exterior packaging of the primary packaging that holds together the individual components and/or units of a good.

When a customer picks up your product or browses the retail shelves, the secondary packaging is the first thing they see. Consumers have to engage with the outer secondary packaging materials in order to access the merchandise beneath it. Your secondary packaging should incorporate your product’s branding characteristics, key phrases, signature color schemes, marketing copy, etc. Secondary packaging provides additional information about your product and surrounds primary packaging to keep it in pristine condition.

A good example of secondary packaging are the plastic rings that hold together a six pack of beverages when you pick them up off the store shelf.

  • Cases
  • Boxes
  • Cartons
  • Trays
  • Crates
  • Baskets
Tertiary Packaging | Sage Design Group

Tertiary packaging, also known as bulk or transit packaging, is the third level of the types of packaging used to group larger quantities of manufactured goods or SKUs to protect products for storing, distribution or transporting from point A to point B. For example, shipping from the production facility to point of sale.

At this stage, products are handled as distribution units of secondary packaging in order to group everything into unit loads during transit. Tertiary packaging includes pallets and large shipping containers for storing and warehousing and is rarely seen by the consumer.

  • Cardboard Boxes
  • Wood Pallets
  • Shrink Wrap
  • Cartons
  • Straps
  • Crates
  • Barrels
  • Shipping Containers
Ancillary Packaging | Sage Design Group

Ancillary packaging plays a vital role in the completeness of the entire package. When used in conjunction with primary packaging, ancillary packaging materials provide product-package compatibility, preservation, product protection, containment, identification, consumer convenience, and consumer protection.

Ancillary packaging materials prevent contamination, improve strength, bind packaging, and protect the primary packaging during transit.

Examples of ancillary packaging materials include printing inks, labels, caps and closures and reinforcement materials such as tapes and straps.

  • Bubble Wrap
  • Peanuts
  • Shredded Paper
  • Paper Strips
  • Palettes
  • Straps
  • Shrink Wrap
  • Caps and Closures
  • Printer Ink
  • Packing Tape
  • Adhesives
  • Sealing Systems
  • Labels

Creative Packaging Ideas

This is my favorite part of this article. To help get you inspired, the following are a few examples of creative and quirky packaging ideas that I thought were brilliant and worth sharing.

  1. Fit Buns
  2. Trident Gum
  3. Note Headphones
  4. Bitty Bakery Box by Marzipan
  5. Antismoke Pack by Reynolds and Reyner
  6. Mustache Paintbrush by Simon Laliberté
  7. Pasta Hair Packaging Design by Nikita Konkin
  8. Hanger Tea by Soon Mo Kang

Multi-Function Package Design

Historically, once the protective function of your packaging was over, the box was discarded. However, the negative environmental impact of the significant increase in discarded packaging has become an alarming global concern and a priority for many organizations – creating a demand for more functional and multipurpose packaging.

  1. Butter Better Package Design by Yanko Design
  2. Pizza Hut Movie Projector by Ogilvy Hong Kong
  3. Grow with Me Seeds by Andrea Ribera, Cristina Castells, and Maria Fernanda
  4. Coloroid by Jialu Li
  5. Lee Never Wasted Ultimate Recycling Bag by Lee Cooper

The Impact Packaging Has on the Environment

The amount of packaging waste left behind poses a serious threat to our environment, and understanding the issues surrounding packaging waste is the first step toward mitigating it.

Every year, we as consumers dispose of tons of packaging materials that do not simply just disappear. The vast majority of plastic waste is disposed of in landfills or into the environment. Over 9 billion tons of plastic have been produced, with only 9% properly recycled. Plastic, paper, tin, and glass packaging materials take hundreds of years to decompose. 

Plastics are a result of human ingenuity because they are lightweight, durable, decay resistant, cheap, and moldable. Because plastic is not biodegradable, every piece of plastic ever produced is still present on this Earth. Plastic that is dumped or washed into the oceans is consumed by marine animals, whether it breaks down into microplastics or not.

Environmentally Friendly Packaging Materials

Eco-friendly packaging is defined as any packaging that is easy to recycle, safe for individuals and the environment, and made from recycled materials. It uses manufacturing practices and materials that have a low impact on energy consumption and natural resources. The following are more sustainable alternatives to plastic packaging.

  • Recycled cardboard and paper
  • Corrugated bubble wrap
  • Organic fabrics
  • Cornstarch packaging
  • Mushroom packaging
  • Seaweed packaging
  • Recycled or upcycled materials

More Eco-Friendly Creative Packaging Ideas

  1. Hello Ashto by Ashton Wusyk
  2. Elisa Ceramics
  3. Milkbarn Infant Clothing by Kelli Murray
  4. Bla Bla Cookies by Adeliya Koldarova, Oksana Paley, Daria Sapozhnikova and Zaira Panaeva
  5. Honey and Candle by Maude Paquette-Boulva


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