Secondary packaging serves multiple functions.

When it comes to merchandising, every second counts. More often than not, there are no second chances when it gets down to impulse purchases. It’s either one and done, or none at all.

That’s why so many forms of attention-grabbing graphics dominate in the world of secondary packaging. It doesn’t matter if it’s a creatively designed caddy of single-serve cookies for convenience stores or a family-sized carton of individually wrapped cupcakes for the wholesale club channel.

“A company wants its products to be visually appealing in the marketplace,” said Anthony Del Viscio, vice-president of sales, Eagle Packaging Machinery. “It is important that its secondary packaging print contains branding and merchandising information that is interesting and enticing while also being consistent with the company’s main goals and missions.”

Secondary packaging comes in all shapes and sizes — and serves multiple functions. In the energy bar category, for instance, it allows start-up businesses to gain instant access to individually wrapped products in nooks, crannies and other “white spaces” throughout the store.

“We are always challenged by the amount of retail space allotted to products,” observed Bill Kehrli, vice-president of sales and marketing, Cavanna Packaging. “You see small companies try to get premium space on a countertop with different types of standup cartons to differentiate themselves.”

In the bread aisle, it can be as simple as overwrapping a loaf to provide primary product protection and inserting it in a second bag to add another layer to ensure freshness and extend shelf life.

“When consumers see that sort of packaging, they also perceive the loaf of bread as premium, having better quality and a better look because the wrap holds the loaf nice and straight — whether you set it flat with the end out or whether you stand it up,” said Dennis Gunnell, vice-president of sales and marketing, Formost Fuji. “It costs more, but it also drives more sales at a higher price point because it gives consumers what they want, which is a premium, better product.”

On the store level, labor-savings have transformed the landscape with the rapid rise in retail-ready displays, said Jim Campbell, north central regional sales manager, BluePrint Automation (BPA).

“The ability to take a case of goods and place that unit on a shelf is less time-consuming than neatly placing individual goods on a shelf or hanging items on pegs, allowing retailers to reduce cost and increase margins,” he explained. “The onus falls on the brand owners and OEMs to develop solutions that accommodate this request. Secondary packaging development, coupled with equipment capable of automating the process, are opportunities for improvement.”

Coming up with packaging propositions often requires a comprehensive approach by bakers and snack producers.

“When designing secondary packaging, one must ensure that the case or tray is easy to open,” Mr. Del Viscio suggested. “You want to create a quick and hassle-free scenario in which the retail employee simply tears the package open, and the product is visible and ready to be placed on the shelf. If the package is poorly designed in a manner that makes the tearing process difficult, the retail employee may have to use box cutters to open it. Then, you run the risk of product damage, a likely return of the product to the manufacturer, or other unwanted complications.”