Contract Packaging 101Developing your own packaging system involves much more than investing in the right packaging equipment and materials to get the job done. It also involves warehousing and hiring an additional workforce to run your packaging operation alongside your core business.

To many companies, setting up their own packaging line is simply not feasible in terms of both the cost and labor required.

What Is Contract Packaging?

This is where contract packaging comes in. Also called co-packing, contract packaging is when a business hires the services of a packaging company to oversee its packaging, assembly, kitting, warehousing, and other supply chain needs. The contract packager can be a specialist in a certain type of packaging—like shrink wrapping, corrugated cardboard, or bottling—or offer additional services like printing, packaging design, and testing.

Here we’ll discuss how food contract packaging in particular works, as well as the benefits of outsourcing your packaging needs.

How Does Food Contract Packaging Work?

Because of the strict industry standards of food processing and packaging, a contract packaging partner in this field must have the equipment, expertise, and materials necessary to protect the integrity of your food products while meeting these standards. Most food co-packing processes involve these three main steps.

Step 1: Discuss Goals

After identifying your co-packing needs, the first step is to reach out and discuss your product and goals with the co-packer. Some companies may require you to complete a questionnaire to learn more about your product and understand your expectations. You will sign a non-disclosure agreement before proceeding to the next phase.

Then you will send your samples and recipes to the co-packing company, which will then analyze your products to ensure they are compatible with its production equipment. If they are, the co-packer will take you through the various packaging options, including materials and quantities. A good contract packaging provider will know how to make the most efficient use of packaging materials while maximizing the shelf life of your product.

Step 2: Approve the Test Batch

Before going into mass production, the co-packer will send a test batch for you to evaluate. You will also get product information that will include:

  • An allergen statement
  • A net weight declaration
  • An ingredients list
  • A nutritional facts panel

Once you approve the final details and design of the packaging, the co-packer commences printing the packaging materials.

Step 3: Production

The company will begin production using your finalized recipe, packaging design, and materials. They usually have production minimums that range from hundreds to thousands of units, so consumer demand for your product must be high enough to save you money per unit.

Why should you hire a contract food packing provider? There are many advantages of outsourcing your packaging needs. For example, a co-packer will offer the machinery, labor, and thought leadership required to deliver your products to the market in style. This allows you to focus all your energy on your core business—manufacturing your product. Other benefits of hiring a co-packer include high-quality packaging, cost reduction, and efficient management of your packaging line.

Co-Packing vs. Contract Packaging Services

Co-packing is the same as contract packing—they involve outsourcing the primary and secondary packaging of finished goods to a third party. While co-packing is common in all industries, it is most prevalent in the health and beauty, food and beverage, and medical and pharmaceutical fields.

Choosing the Right Contract Packing or Co-Packing Partner

There are a few things you should take into account when looking for the right co-packer for your food products, such as:

  • ISO certifications
  • Fast lead times
  • Transparency
  • Quality control

Finding the right co-packer can be overwhelming, especially if you are new to the market or want to venture into a new field. Econo-Pak is a third-generation family-owned contract packaging company dedicated to serving the unique needs of the food processing, pharmaceutical, and retail industries.

Download our eBook, “Contract Food Packaging: Supplier Expectations Manual,” for more information. You can also request a quote to get started on your food co-packing solution.

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