Packaging is essential to the commercial appeal of just about every product. Whether it's Apple's iconic minimalism or the grave warnings on cigarette packs, presentation is key for catching a consumer's eye and inspiring (or discouraging) a purchase. A company's packaging choices are not, however, exclusively a Marketing concern. Before the product reaches store shelves, it still needs to be stored, handled, and transported.

Source One's Strategic Sourcing experts have spent years pairing clients with packaging suppliers capable of meeting unique specifications and consistently providing protective, sustainable, and cost-effective packaging.

Before selecting a supplier for their packaging needs, a company first has to determine what sort of material they'll leverage to house and store their product. This choice will have implications well beyond cost. Let's take a look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of specific packaging materials.


The durability of metal packaging makes it an appealing choice for companies working in construction and manufacturing. Its protective qualities also make it an especially risk-averse option. Metal packaging is particularly effective at protecting sensitive materials from water, sunlight, and other environmental risks.

Metal's relative sustainability also appeals to environmentally-conscious organizations in any industry. Easily recycled, metal packaging can help companies and customers meet their own green goals. The material's durability also means a metal package is more easily reused than a wooden, cardboard, or plastic one.

Sourcing metal packaging can prove challenging, however, when highly-specific needs come into play. It's important to identify suppliers with resources necessary to engineer and fabricate the necessary materials. Trying to identify these suppliers alone can easily exhaust a company's internal resources.


Lightweight and flexible, plastic's benefits to shipping and storage are numerous. From a logistics perspective, plastic packaging means more product loaded onto trucks and headed to its destination.

Though plastic waste is an ever-present environmental concern, the material is actually more easily recycled than glass. In fact, The Glass Packaging Institute reports that recycling plastic requires only 10% of the energy that producing it new requires.

Sourcing plastic packaging becomes tricky where production methods are concerned. Plastic fabricators employ a variety of methods including injection molding, compression molding, and thermoforming. The relative strengths and weaknesses of these processes produce ripples throughout the supply chain.

Injection molding, for example, allows for a high-level of complexity and detail. Once these details are agreed upon, the process is easily and efficiently automated. This method, however, can require a hefty up-front investment. These costs can skyrocket if even incremental changes are made to package design. If your organization anticipates such changes, or plans to place a low-quantity order, thermoformed plastic packaging might turn out more cost effective.


While not as adaptable as metal or plastic, wood packaging still comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. A wood package is also easily assembled. So easily, in fact, that your organization might find it possible to do so in-house. Unfortunately, the process is not easily automated.

The environmental benefits of choosing wood packaging are obvious. It's a renewable resource and the only packaging material that actually reduces carbon-dioxide emissions. Designed well, a wood package is also highly reusable. Associated Pallets estimates a single wooden pallet can serve a company's storage and shipping needs for at least three years.

Ensuring product quality is important with any packaging material, but a poorly designed wooden package could leave your package particularly vulnerable to water or extreme temperatures.As always, vetting suppliers and their offerings thoroughly is essential to mitigating risk and ensuring safe transit.

Additional Measures

Safety is always a primary concern when it comes time to ship an product. Your company might find it necessary to seek out supplementary materials to preserve cargo.

Conducting a risk analysis can help your organization determine the appropriate cautionary strategy. Performed internally, or with the help of a third-party firm, this assessment should identify primary areas of concern and point to cost-effective methods for ensuring safe transport.

Anti-corrosives, vacuum sealing, protective sprays, and cushioning can all make the difference in ensuring your product reaches its destination in one piece.

Source One's team of Strategic Sourcing specialists have conducted successful cost reduction initiatives in countless categories of direct and indirect spend. Looking for help selecting a best-fit packaging supplier? We'll embed ourselves within your organization to determine your unique requirements. With our assistance, you'll safely ship and store products while meeting cost reduction and sustainability goals along the way.

Looking for the raw materials or fabricators to meet a client's packaging needs? Our direct materials experts have got you covered. We'll identify the right vendor at the right price and help set your organization apart. Give us a call today.

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