RESTON, VA. — E-commerce is not only changing the rules of the game; it’s starting a whole new game. To succeed in this new e-commerce-driven world, baking and snack food manufacturers need to consider a fundamentally different approach than standard retail packaging.

In 2018, online sales of physical goods amounted to $504.6 billion and are projected to surpass $735 billion in 2023, according to Statista DMO. Products sold online go through a process requiring many more touchpoints and risk of damage than that of traditional retail. A typical product on a retail shelf may have been handled a dozen times, while a product in the e-commerce channel will likely see between 20 and 30 touches before it reaches the consumer, according to the “2018 E-Commerce: Think Inside the Box” report produced by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies.

In order to win at this new e-commerce game, manufacturers should focus on five key areas according to PMMI’s e-commerce report: meeting customer expectations; shrink primary packaging by size and portion; protect the product by bundling or wrapping; right-sized secondary packaging and big data optimization.

Meeting customer’s expectations 

Evaluate if the product is a high-end item that commands an enhanced consumer experience upon receipt or a money-saving product that conveys a bargain through more simplistic packaging. Unboxing experiences can create brand loyalty and repeat customers. Think inside the box with personalization, unique designs or functional enhancements. For example, using augmented reality to deliver a personalized message to the consumer, recipes or simply a note of thanks.

Shrink primary packaging by size and portion

Larger products ideal for big-box stores may need to shrink to smaller sizes and portions for more affordable delivery costs. Meal kits and prepared meals may drive the need for smaller, branded portions. Glass may need to switch to plastic, and rigid to flexible.

Protect the product: Bundling or wrapping

The ability of an e-commerce package to protect the product from breakage, leakage and damage is paramount. There is a growing need for individual product protection.

Right-sized secondary packaging

Build the carton to fit the products being shipped. Avoid the need to fill empty space which increases packaging waste and curbside recycling. Consumers want environmentally friendly packaging and are now more responsible for recycling. Weather protection needs to be considered by applying varnishes or coatings. Does the product warrant full color, on-demand printing on the box or inside the box?

Big data optimization

Companies are already working toward acquiring big data; this will continue with e-commerce. Package traceability from beginning to end has become critical. For e-commerce, data can help with organization and efficiency for fulfillment in-house or at third-party warehouses.

Finding the right solutions

E-commerce is driving the need to re-look at packaging from all angles — whether it be new sustainable materials, package sizing, product protection or adding personalization features. Packaging plays an important role in maintaining customer loyalty — particularly in the e-commerce world. Pack Expo, being held Sept. 23-25 in Las Vegas, is the place to find smart, sustainable, easy-on-the-eye packaging solutions designed for e-commerce.

According to show producer PMMI, innovations from more than 2,000 exhibitors spanning over 900,000 net square feet of exhibit space, the show will bring together top consumer packaged goods companies from around the world to explore state-of-the-art packaging technologies, equipment and materials and provide innovative e-commerce solutions.

Beyond the technologies displayed on the show floor, attendees will find tremendous educational opportunities on the Innovation Stage where suppliers present free 30-minute seminars on breakthrough technologies throughout the day.

For more information and to register online, visit