No product is considered finished until the producer lands on the perfect packaging system to bring it all together. Even as the economy becomes more digitized, customers still care about packaging for many reasons, including functionality, sustainability, and the way it looks or how it adds to the unboxing experience.
How a product is packaged comes down to more than just first impressions. Rigid versus flexible packaging is a perfect example of how these choices impact the user experience.
Let’s look at the basics of both rigid and flexible packaging, and compare the pros and cons of each from the standpoint of branding, shipping, and convenience. We’ll also outline the top materials and packaging types that come into play when designing products for the modern marketplace.
What Is Rigid Packaging?
Encompassing any package type that’s strong, inflexible, and able to stand upright, rigid packaging is certainly the more common of the two types in the spotlight today.
With materials like cardboard, hard plastics, glass, and metals, rigid packaging solutions keep things simple and straightforward for producers and consumers alike. These packages offer reasonable protection, decent barrier properties, and a degree of customization that helps to realize the vision of the manufacturer.
Rigid packaging may be more familiar to the masses. After all, these materials have been around for far longer. But rigid packaging isn’t without its downsides.
Rigid packaging can be costlier to ship, may not have the same customization as flexible packages, and may not provide the highly adaptable child-resistant security that flexible packaging handles with ease.
What Is Flexible Packaging?
It may be relatively new compared to its rigid counterparts, but flexible packaging has made some major waves by introducing plenty of undeniable advantages.
Flexible packaging solutions are made from various materials, from multi-layer films and laminates to complex foils, malleable thermoplastics, and much more. They can better meet a variety of needs thanks to food-safe materials and plenty of customization regarding size and design.
A few decades ago, flexible packaging seemed like an odd proposition to brands in food, household goods, and other high-volume industries. But now, companies are seeing the appeal of pouches, bags, and other versatile containers that offer far more pliability.
Consumers are also warming up to flexible packaging as they enjoy a more convenient and modern user experience in the home. Snacking, cleaning, and other household activities are made easier with flexible packaging to protect their favorite products.
What Are Common Types of Flexible Packaging?
Today’s flexible packaging options are plentiful, but a few materials lead the way in terms of popularity. These are the materials that offer benefits like chemical barrier properties, resilience during shipping and storage, plus the user experience that customers want.
Here are the top flexible packaging types that brands should consider using now.
Low-Density Polythene (LDPE)
Best known for its high temperature resistance and structural strength, LDPE is a soft and flexible material with tons of customization options. Customers are familiar with LDRE in the form of plastic bags, lids, squeezable bottles, single-use cups, and six-pack rings.
As a packaging solution, LDPE is affordable with relatively quick execution, making it a cost-effective, entry-level option.
Biaxially-Oriented Polyethylene Terephthalate (BOPET)
A step up from LDPE in strength and quality, BOPET is incredibly versatile not only as a flexible packaging material, but also for many other industrial applications.
Since BOPET is made from stretched polyethylene terephthalate (PET), it has the properties of that strong film with even more tensile strength and stronger chemical barriers. This takes BOPET to new heights with its mechanics and capabilities.
We now see brands in industries like food, supplies, and even cannabis use BOPET packaging to help set their products apart and extend shelf life for more profits.
Biaxially-Orientated Polypropylene Polymer (BOPP)
It may not have the temperature protection or the tensile strength of BOPET, but BOPP is a solid alternative film that CPG manufacturers can count on for packaging.
BOPP excels in one key area over others in its class: vapor and liquid barrier protection. This is key for packaging food and other dry goods that must be protected from moisture throughout the supply chain journey and during the user experience.
BOPP and its parent material, polypropylene, are also great for making packaging labels. It’s always in demand for brands across the board.
What Are Common Types of Rigid Packaging?
Even though flexible packaging benefits from newer innovations and novelty, there is still plenty to be excited about with rigid packaging. Here are the common types of rigid packaging solutions that still hold strong today.
Paper-based materials are more capable than they appear, especially with innovations in corrugated and paperboard technologies. “Cardboard” or “paperboard” is the umbrella category here, and the applications are endless for brands packaging products of all kinds.
Today’s paperboard is also surprisingly malleable, giving brands more to work with in terms of customized designs and differentiating features, though it lacks child-resistant properties and isn’t as durable as other options. Companies aren’t always looking to reinvent the wheel with packaging, and paperboard offers that familiar look and feel.
Despite some notable weaknesses, glass is still one of the best in the packaging scene with its strong barrier properties, accessibility, and familiarity.
Glass bottles and jars will remain on store shelves for years to come, and the material also has sustainable features making it appealing to the masses.
Food products, cosmetics, and even some household supplies can make use of glass packaging, though savvy brands are looking into easier-to-ship flexible pouches, especially those who want child-resistant properties.
Think beyond foil for a moment: aluminum in rigid form is another popular solution for brands needing a strong, reliable packaging plan. Containers and lids made from aluminum are great for the food industry, where temperature regulation and customization are key.
The material is extremely light for its exceptional barrier properties, able to withstand high temps, and maintain the structure of food for longer periods. On an industrial level, aluminum is also common in creating cartridges, caps, closures, cans, bottles, and more.
What Makes Rigid and Flexible Packaging Different?
The differences between rigid and flexible packaging are deeper than surface-level looks (although there are certainly differences there too). Here’s how these two packaging types vary and why these choices matter for brands.
While rigid packaging materials are well-established, customization options aren’t as numerous as flexible alternatives.
This isn’t to say that metal, glass, and paperboard can’t be crafted to fit a company’s specifications for a product. They are simply working with a limited framework of properties and functionality.
The winner here should be no surprise, as flexible packaging is designed for this specific purpose.
Rigid packaging solutions cannot compete in flexibility, which limits the versatility of these materials when it comes time to create custom solutions. The lack of flexibility with rigid packaging can bump up shipping costs and take up more space on store shelves.
The last generation of flexible materials may not be known for durability, but that is changing fast. Modern flexible packaging solutions like those from Dymapak are more durable than ever, with strong barrier properties comparable to rigid packages.
Much of the space occupied by rigid packaging is underutilized or unnecessary. Flexible packaging fixes this problem by reducing the required dimensions of a package and using that space more efficiently.
This equates to lightweight products which save costs upfront and lighten loads for shipping and storage. Best of all, it enables a company to better stock shelves, avoid “outs,” and let retailers better maintain product replenishment.
The Bottom Line
Flexible packaging offers a variety of perks in a slew of industries. Dymapak offers child-resistant, eco-friendly packaging that’s food-grade and fully customizable. Making the right selection is key to the success of your product in any industry, ensuring protection, sustainability, and consumer enjoyment through the years.
7 Benefits of Flexible Packaging | FlexPack Mag
Flexible Packaging Innovations | IOPP