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Primary Packaging: Defined

“Primary” and “Secondary” are terms used to describe the associated step in a manufacturing, co-manufacturing or contract packaging process. Just as it sounds, “primary packaging” is the reference used when describing the process for the first point of contact with a powder, liquid or product regardless of product category, industry or grade. It implies that the manufacturing process will require the necessary machinery, quality controls and certifications to work in direct contact with the raw product or ingredients.

Primary and Secondary Packaging Examples

A powdered cake mix into a pouch would be an example of primary packaging, and so would the bagging of Quikrete. One is a food grade and the other chemical grade but both packaging examples require direct contact with the raw ingredients.

The wrapping of a mint is considered primary packaging but the bagging of 20 pre-wrapped mints would be “secondary” packaging, because the raw candies have already been wrapped. The filling of Gatorade into a bottle is primary (liquid) packaging, but the case wrapping (Bundling) a tray of 24 bottles of Gatorade would be a “secondary” packaging” step because this process does not depend on touching or coming in direct contact with the liquid.

Primary Packaging In More Detail

When the term “primary packaging” is used, it is meant to put emphasis on the inherent need for environment controls, quality controls (HACCP), special certifications, government registrations or all of the above, when handling raw materials, whether food or non-food categories.

Here are some points you should consider when evaluating a contract packaging company to perform “primary packaging” services for one or more of your raw products:

  • Does the packaging facility have the necessary certifications to handle raw products or ingredients. For food, some of these would include AIB, GFSI, SQF (level 2=safety/level 3=quality), Cookes and Thurbur, or Sillikar.
  • How deep is the quality control department and do they have the staff for regular documentation of the packaging process and the written SOP’s (standard operating procedures) to manage the process in accordance with those certifications?
  • Does the facility have blending and formulating capabilities as this is commonly required in the primary filling process.
  • Does the facility have a working laboratory to do the proper testing pre and post filling?
  • Does the plant provide turnkey services? Can they source and procure the raw ingredients along with the any packaging substrates that are specific to the product and application. (Ex: flexible film, pouches or bottles/caps)
  • Does the contract filling facility also offer secondary packaging services so that after a pouch or bottle is filled it can then be placed into a retail box or counter display right in-line.

In today’s economy, it’s important to work with the right contract packager with experienced knowledge, a wide reach, and flexibility. Primary and secondary packaging is at the core of most packaging projects, and understanding the basics will help ensure a successful end result.

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