Different Types of Food Packaging

Updated February 21, 2017

Manufacturers of foodstuffs rely on packaging their products for reasons that range from protection, freshness and containment to serving size, marketing considerations and compliance with government regulations. Most food manufacturers turn to outside companies to supply their packaging machines and these companies, in turn, rely on the expertise of sophisticated controls manufacturers, like Siemens, to monitor and control their packaging operations.


The most common packaging materials used by food manufacturers are plastic, aluminium and cardboard. Plastic is the material of choice for most frozen foods, fresh perishable food items, snack foods like chips and pretzels, and a variety of bakery items. Aluminium is best for beverages like juices, soft drinks and beer, and for canned perishable foods and some baked foods. Cardboard packaging is used for both frozen and fresh perishable foods and dry goods like cereals, mixes and rices.


All three basic types of food packaging materials are customisable to display logos, photos, marketing material, and ingredient and nutrition lists along with any other information the manufacturer wishes to convey. While some food types offer flexibility in packaging materials, most packaging is determined by the nature of the food itself.


Plastic is a versatile food-packaging material. Often in the form of custom bags, plastic is used for bread, frozen goods, snack foods and resealables like cheese. In bottle form, plastics contain drinks and flavourings, cooking oils and condiments. Plastic trays are used for fresh or frozen meats or fish. Plastic films are widely used as liners in other types of packaging.


Aluminium is common, easy to manufacture, inexpensive and environmentally friendly because it’s made of recycled materials and can again be recycled. Aluminium food containers can store food safely for extended periods. It is perfect for storing canned goods, potted meats and fish, as an inner liner for bags, or even as covers for foods stored in plastic trays


Small cardboard tubs, tubes or cans are used for salt, nuts, snack foods, candies, cocoa powder, spices and some cooking fats, dairy products and frozen foods. They are light in weight, reasonably crushproof and ecologically sound since they are manufactured from wood pulp, a renewable resource.

Other types of packaging

Wooden barrels have long been used to package a wide range of liquid foods such as wine, cooking oils, juices and beer. Flavour compounds from the wood improve the quality of the products. Glass bottles and jars still offer advantages over other materials, though they are being increasingly displaced by plastics for packaging condiments and oils. They are still widely used for beer, juices, jams and jellies, and pickles. Paper of different types still finds use as a packaging material for sacks of flour, sugar, and some fruits and vegetables.

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About the Author

Garrison Pence has been a midwest-based (ghost)writer for three decades, taught university-level literature, and has written articles and white papers in trade publications of the Material Handling Institute, Engineering Today, Pharmaceutical, Food and Beverage Science, and Semiconductor. Pence holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Arts in Literature.