What Is Retail Packaging? (+ Top Suppliers to Create Your Packaging)

Cover illustration; A beautifully-designed box adorned with hearts sits open, revealing a similarly-designed candle inside. Two lit candles, identical to the one inside the box, stand on opposite sides of the box, slightly pushed to the background.

Packaging that stands out from the competition is an important factor in the success of any retail product. With an effective packaging strategy, businesses can create a memorable product and an image that drives consumer loyalty and helps build a healthy customer base. 

Retail packaging suppliers work closely with brands to achieve these objectives. Today's suppliers help retailers and manufacturers develop and customize distinctive packaging solutions for their product, enabling them to stand out on store shelves and across digital channels.

If you’re taking on the job of retail packaging, here’s what you need to know.

What is retail packaging? 

Retail packaging refers to the materials and processes used to package products for sale to consumers in stores or online. It’s designed to protect and present the product in the most appealing way, to catch the customer’s eye and ultimately to encourage a sale.

Top custom retail packaging suppliers to work with


Uline is a leading supplier of retail packaging products and equipment, offering a broad selection of products ranging from boxes and bags to bubble wrap and tape. It has an in-house design team who help develop custom solutions and packaging ideas.

The Packaging Source

The Packaging Source is a comprehensive solutions provider for custom retail packaging. They offer a wide selection of materials and services, from design and printing to packaging production. 

Kraft Packaging

Kraft Packaging is a long-standing custom retail packaging supplier that focuses on creating environmentally friendly and affordable packaging solutions. It offers an array of design options, including custom printed packaging and automated shipping. Its sustainable packaging practices make them a great option for those looking to ensure their product stands out on store shelves and online.

Sun Packaging Solutions

Sun Packaging Solutions specializes in creating custom solutions for various industries, including food, beverage, beauty, and health. It provides turnkey services, including design, printing, and production, making it a one-stop-shop for all of your retail packaging needs.

Advantages of good retail packaging

Packaging is more than just something to put your products in. It helps protect goods, serves as a marketing tool, provides product information, and even influences sales.

Product protection

Packaging creates a protective barrier between your products, the box or bag they’re carried in, and the elements. It’s designed to cushion products in transport, whether they’re being carried out of your store by a shopper, or shipped across the world

Packing peanuts, bubble wrap, crumpled paper, and cardboard go a long way in protecting products as they leave your store or warehouse and travel to their final destinations.

Environmental impact

According to research by IBM and the National Retail Federation, “57% of consumers are willing to change their purchasing habits to help reduce negative environmental impact.” 

Beyond using materials that are easy to recycle, create packaging that customers repurpose and reuse. For many retailers, a branded reusable bag is the gift that keeps on giving in more ways than one. 

Baby and kids apparel retailer mini mioche produces reusable totes that fit with its eco-friendly ethos. Founder and Owner Alyssa Kerbel says, “Because we are an eco-conscious company, it makes sense to use reusable bags and it’s something our customers really appreciate. We also give customers who spend $150 or more in-store one of our premium printed cotton canvas tote bags.”

Branding opportunity

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, founder and publisher of Retail Minded, and co-founder of the Independent Retailer Conference, has the scoop on how packaging relates to branding:

When a merchant invests in branded bags, they are also investing in continued marketing for their business. Once that bag exits their store, it begins a journey that may connect with simply a few or even many consumers along the way. From potential customers seeing it on the streets to the user of the bag repurposing it again, the journey may not be clear, but it certainly guarantees continued brand exposure.

Provide product information

Packaging may be the first interaction a customer has with a product, making it a great place to provide essential details. Use boxes and other external packaging to share useful information about an item, such as directions and suggestions for use, ingredients, specifications, contents, or warning notices.

For example, the label on a can of Heinz Baked Beanz shares ingredients, nutrition and allergen information, and educational messaging about the importance of protein to a balanced diet.

Influence sales

Packaging choices, including eco-conscious packaging, can have a direct effect on sales:

  • About eight in ten consumers are concerned with sustainability issues, suggesting a chance for brands to lead with eco-friendly packaging initiatives to increase sales and a positive brand perception.
  • About 60 to 70% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging.
  • A recent study suggests about 62% of consumers are more likely to purchase from brands using sustainable packaging.
  • Around 80% of consumers have admitted to being bothered by oversized and unnecessary packaging.

Packaging is pretty powerful stuff.

Types of retail packaging

The list of retail packaging options is long, and much of the choice depends on what you’re selling. Here are some of the most popular options. 

Paperboard boxes

Specifically designed for items that are lightweight, fragile, and not exposed to harsh environments, paperboard boxes are generally made from recycled materials such as recycled paper, cardboard, and kraft paper. These boxes have a special coating to make them more durable, and can also be customized with graphics, logos, and other details to enhance brand recognition. Not only are paperboard boxes cost-effective, they’re also very easy to assemble and store.

Eco-friendly packaging

As noted, more and more retailers and product manufacturers are turning to eco-friendly packaging materials in an effort to reduce their environmental impact. These materials are made from natural, sustainable, and recyclable alternatives such as hemp, bamboo, or cotton. 

They’re also often biodegradable and compostable, making them an ideal solution for businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint. Eco-friendly packaging can also be customized with graphics, logos, and other details to enhance brand recognition.

Foil sealed bags

Foil sealed bags are designed to provide a long-term, air-sealed barrier against environmental elements, making them great for items that are vulnerable to heat, moisture, and UV radiation. They’re made from high-density polyethylene and other plastics for a strong, puncture-resistant seal. 

Rigid boxes

Rigid boxes are made from sturdy materials like heavy-duty cardboard, plastics, or metals. These boxes are designed to provide an extra layer of protection and are often used to protect fragile items, such as electronics, medical supplies, or food, during shipping. They’re also customizable with graphics, logos, and other details to enhance brand recognition.

Corrugated boxes

Corrugated boxes are a great choice for heavier items or items that require extra padding. These boxes are made from multiple layers of cardboard and are designed to provide extra strength and protection. Corrugated boxes are often used for bulk items or heavier items like appliances, furniture, and automotive parts.

Tips for creating your retail packaging + examples

As you make decisions about your packaging, keep the following in mind. 

Invest in a memorable unboxing experience

The rise of vlogging has opened the gateway to the importance of the “unboxing” experience. Influencers share the joys of shopping with their audiences by filming themselves as they unwrap or unbox new purchases. Your packaging is an opportunity to surprise and delight customers.

“Unboxing has become a core part of customers’ experiences with companies,” says Tyler Vawser of Sticker Mule. “It matters at the individual level and at a social level: We want our customers and their friends and colleagues to have an experience every time a new order arrives.” 

Layer elements within retail packaging to create an experience akin to unveiling a hidden treasure. Branded tissue paper, ribbons, stickers, and booklets can be part of the experience. Take @mai_accents as an example.

Invest in good design 

Solid product packaging design is essential for any business looking to stand out from the competition and create a memorable customer experience. By incorporating high-quality visuals and an eye-catching design, businesses create an emotional connection with their customers, which encourages them to make a purchase. Packaging design is also an excellent way to increase brand awareness and build customer loyalty. 

Consider how Tiffany & Co. invests in their packaging to the point where its products are easily recognizable no matter where you spot them. Fans of the brand like @tiffany.reetzy enjoy showing off the packaging on their own social accounts, which leads to additional brand exposure. 

Offer discount codes or loyalty programs on the packaging with QR technology

Advertising discount codes or loyalty programs on product packaging design help businesses encourage repurchases and build customer loyalty. Including an offer on the packaging will also make customers more likely to purchase it. 

Additionally, it’s a great way to engage customers and encourage them to share their experiences on social media. Offering discount codes on product packaging allows businesses to reward customers for their loyalty and help strengthen the customer-brand relationship. Hair care products manufacturer Olaplex, for example, includes a QR code on the back of its packaging.

The back-side of a bottle of Olaplex shampoo. A label lists directions and product ingredients.

Create and test prototypes before making a large production run

Creating prototypes and test runs before committing to a large production order is a great way to ensure that your packaging meets their expectations. Prototypes and test runs allow businesses to examine their packaging for flaws or inconsistencies and make any necessary changes before going into full production. 

This helps businesses avoid costly problems such as incorrectly printed labels or misaligned logos. Custom packaging providers like Printful allow you to create test packaging before signing off on a bigger order.

An assortment of Printful's packaging options; many of which feature playful emojis and space for a merchant's logo.

Stand out from the crowd

Good retail packaging is an opportunity to make a great first impression, influence sales, educate shoppers, and stand out from the competition. Make sure you’re choosing packaging materials that are appropriate for your product, budget, and sustainability goals. By following these tips, you should be well on your way to creating retail packaging designed to make your products stand out.

Retail packaging FAQ

What is retail packaging?

Retail packaging is the packaging used to store and display products in retail stores. It’s designed to attract shoppers, protect the product, and provide customers with product information.

What are the different types of retail packaging?

The most common types of retail packaging are paperboard boxes, foil sealed bags, rigid boxes, and corrugated boxes. Each packaging type has its own benefits and drawbacks, and should be chosen based on product, budget, and sustainability goals.

What’s the difference between retail packaging and bulk packaging?

Retail packaging is designed for individual products and is often used to attract customers; bulk packaging is designed to package multiple units of the same product and is generally used for shipping and storage. Bulk packaging is usually cheaper and simpler than retail packaging.

What’s the difference between retail packaging and non-retail packaging?

Retail packaging is specifically designed to display products in retail stores and is generally more visually appealing than non retail packaging. Non-retail packaging is usually used for storage, shipping, and distribution, and is usually simpler and cheaper than retail packaging.