Packaging materials are a vital part of protecting, distributing, and selling food products. The materials you use must be able to protect the food from damage or tampering in order to keep it safe for consumers. They have to shield against excess moisture, changes in temperature or lighting, and other factors that could cause contamination or other damage. In order to provide the best product for customers, companies must use the right material. To help you create the perfect packaging for your food products, here are the four main types of packaging materials used in food.
Plastic is lightweight, versatile, and inexpensive, making it perfect for mass production. There are many forms of plastic packaging materials, including bottles, pouches, wraps, disposable trays or bowls, and more. Many plastic packaging materials are also microwavable, making them perfect for products that need to be heated up. The two most common plastics used in food are polyolefins and polyester. Polyolefins like polyethylene and polypropylene are lightweight, malleable, and resistant to chemicals or moisture. This makes them perfect for beverage jugs and bottles and bags for breads or frozen foods. Polyester—more specifically polyethylene terephthalate—is sturdier, allowing it to better resist heats, oils, solvents, and gases. This makes it suitable for tubs, jars, and trays or bowls.
Like plastics, companies use metals in a variety of different packaging methods. Metal packaging materials make cans, films, tubes, and closures like caps or lids. The most common example—and one of the most common types of packaging materials used in food overall—is the metal can. Metal packaging protects the contents from changes in temperature or interference from the outside air. Because of this, metal packaging helps extend a product’s shelf life. It’s also remarkably recyclable. Many small metal tins and other metal packaging materials have FDA-approved coating, allowing the food to touch the metal directly without risk of contamination.
Glass packages offer excellent resistance to gases, vapors, and other contamination in the surrounding environment. However, they’re heavier and much more fragile than many other materials. Companies can’t use glass for frozen foods without risk of the material shattering. For the most part, glass appears in the form of bottles, jars, and glasses. It’s also highly recyclable, and companies and consumers alike reuse glass packaging materials to continuously store products.
Paper and cardboard are the most common wood-based materials. Paper is remarkably cheap and lightweight, but it’s also vulnerable to moisture. As such, manufacturers usually combine paper with other packaging materials such as plastic or glass. Cardboard most commonly appears on shelves in the form of boxes. Paper packaging materials work best for dry products, although coated cardboard can store wet or frozen foods as well. Companies also like to reuse paper packaging materials in order to make the most of the materials’ life.