Assemblies Unlimited, Inc.

Secondary Packaging: Defined

As the trends in contract packaging have evolved so too have the terms used to describe the available packaging services.  Outsourcing has become so popular in the last decade that most companies know they need to have a local contract packaging company to complete their packaging project but might not realize that definitions have changed or at least been slightly modified to describe a function, a technology and a particular stage in the supply chain.

For example, the word “Fulfillment” originally was used to describe a mail order house where bulk mail was addressed, separated by zip code and then sent to the post office for mailing.  Then “Pick and Pack” fulfillment came to light and describes where specific orders for items are pulled from inventory and packed in dedicated shipping cartons then drop shipped to a residential or commercial address.  (Amazon).  Also, Fulfillment can be synonymous with a hand assembly project like a Point of Purchase display, the packing out or assembly of that display and finally the drop shipping to a DC, club store or retail outlet.


“Secondary” packaging has become a popular term that is used to describe the additional steps in the packaging process AFTER a raw product has already touched, packaged and protected by a primary method.  The term “secondary”, as it implies, refers to the packaging service associated with putting a pre-wrapped product into a higher assembly or retail kit, gift set, box, carton, counter display, POP display or any other outer packaging that would be used to ship or protect a retail product.  Any time there is an opportunity for “Primary Packaging” there would also be an opportunity for secondary packaging to occur.  Secondary packaging can be a hand assembly or fully automated process and would apply to both food and non-food applications.

Here are a few examples:

Primary Packaging Secondary Packaging
Fritos into a bag and sealed 12 bags of Fritos packed into a tray and shrink wrapped
Hand lotion into a tube Inserting the tube into a retail box
Individually wrapped Hard Candy 20 pieces of pre-wrapped candy put into a large poly bag and heat sealed
Water filled into a bottle and capped 24 bottles of water placed into a tray and bundle wrapped
120 Probiotic Gummy Bears into a bottle 24 bottles placed into a Costco Tray and shrink wrapped
Barbeque sauce into a bottle Shrink wrapping of 2 bottles of BBQ sauce as a value pack

It is very important to note that not all contract packaging companies who provide primary packaging necessarily provide end-of-line secondary packaging services.  The most common reason for this is that a primary filling packaging environment relies heavily on automation to achieve it’s goal and companies are not ready to take on the manual labor required for most secondary work due to cost or space constraints, or both.

Conversely, there are many contract packagers who do not have the industry certifications necessary to take on primary filling or packaging and who rely almost 100% on manual labor to do the end of line secondary work that is needed for a project before it gets drop shipped to its final retail destination.  A company that requires both primary AND secondary packaging should know the full range of services a contract packaging partner can provide before engaging into a long-term outsourcing relationship.

The perfect solution is a primary filler or packaging company who has the equipment, space, manpower and culture to complete the primary and secondary steps in the packaging process so your project is managed under one roof.


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