Rigid Packaging vs. Flexible Packaging: Which is Better & Why?

If you sell a product, chances are that your product requires some kind of packaging — but what kind? Two primary categories to choose from include rigid packaging and flexible packaging.

Let’s take a close look at the respective characteristics, pros, and cons of these two forms of packaging to see which type makes more sense for your brand’s products, mission, values, and bottom line.

What is Flexible Packaging?

Flexible packaging includes any kind of packaging meant to bend, flatten, or otherwise give way to outside pressure. You’ve probably seen countless examples on store shelves. Products commonly contained in flexible packaging include coffee, tea, seasonings, sweets, dried fruits, and salty snacks such as chips and popcorn. 

What is Rigid Packaging?

Rigid packaging includes any kind of packaging meant to hold its shape under a variety of conditions. The materials used for this form of packaging can vary widely, from single-ply or corrugated cardboard containers to plastic boxes, glass jars, and aluminum cans. If it isn’t designed to crush or deform easily, it counts as rigid packaging.

Flexible Packaging Pros

Flexible packaging boasts many desirable qualities for companies who require its particular combination of advantages. Some of these advantages include:

  • Sustainability – Flexible packaging typically requires less material than rigid packaging, with less waste from unused interior volume. You can also find flexible packaging that offers recycled materials such as kraft paper, helping your company help the environment.
  • Compactness – The same super-efficient use of interior volume that allows you to make better use of your packaging also lets you use smaller packages in general. This means that sellers can fit more of your products on the same amount of shelf.
  • Freshness – Unlike typical rigid packaging, flexible packaging often includes resealable zipper tops that can lock in freshness even after the product has been opened. This benefit is especially critical if you sell foods that can go bad after exposure to air or moisture.
  • Cost effectiveness – In most cases, you’ll find that you can get more flexible packages for your dollar when you go with flexible packaging. These packaged goods may also prove lighter in weight, less costly to ship, and less prone to losses from breakage.
  • Brand impact – Your product may stand out against the competition when you’re using flexible packages, such as standup bags, instead of the traditional rigid options. Stand-up pouches made of natural kraft paper appeal to customers looking for products with a personal or hand-crafted touch.

Flexible Packaging Cons

Since no type of packaging is perfect, it’s useful to understand flexible packaging’s limitations as well as its virtues. Here are some shortcomings that some companies might need to consider:

  • Lack of pressurization – If you sell a product that must be contained under pressure, such as soda pop or an aerosol-based product, flexible packaging won’t maintain that pressurization.
  • Impact protection – Some items require more impact protection than others. For instance, you might get away with packaging electronic wiring in flexible bags, but a delicate pre-assembled electronic device most likely needs rigid packaging.
  • Narrower size range – You can certainly get flexible packaging in different sizes. However, your extra-large products may only fit into a rigid package.

Rigid Packaging Pros

You may have gleaned some of the advantages of rigid packaging from the section above. Rigid packaging offers:

  • Mass availability – Since rigid packaging has been around forever, there’s no shortage of packaging providers to choose from when you’re shopping for solutions.
  • Impact protection – As noted above, rigid packaging can provide superior impact protection. In addition to the rigid nature of the outer packaging materials, you can stuff loose space inside the package with foam peanuts or air pillows.

Rigid Packaging Cons

Rigid packaging has its downside as well. You may have to contend with:

  • Fragility – Some kinds of rigid packaging can prove a little too rigid for their own good — or for yours. Glass jars and bottles can break, ruining the contents. Aluminum cans are vulnerable to crumpling, tearing, and bursting.
  • “Shelf-hogging” – Since rigid packages must have the exact amount of shelf space prescribed by their dimensions, the number of items you can display on a shelf is limited by physics and geometry.
  • Material waste – Rigid packaging rarely uses every square centimeter of its interior volume. This wasted volume per package requires you to use more packaging material than necessary — not exactly a plus for environmentally-conscious brands and their customers.
  • Limited resealability – Most cardboard rigid packages used to contain cereals, snacks, and other food items can’t reseal, unless you count the flimsy tab at the top. The fact that you can’t make such containers airtight reduces your product’s preservation once opened.

Rigid Packaging vs. Flexible Packaging: Key Differences

Now that we’ve listed some of the pros and cons of both flexible packaging and rigid packaging, let’s review some key differences between these two options.

  1. Materials used – Rigid packaging tends to use heavier, more robust materials such as cardboard, polycarbonate plastic, glass, and metal. Flexible packaging generally relies on paper and/or soft plastics, with or without a flexible inner foil lining.
  2. Preservation properties – Rigid packaging can preserve foods well up to the point of purchase, not after opening. Flexible packaging usually offers a way to lock in the freshness after opening.
  3. Cost – While the rigid packaging world may compete harder to get your business, flexible packaging’s lightness and efficient use of space make it the more economic alternative.

Rigid Packaging vs. Flexible Packaging: Consumer Preferences

If consumer trends are anything to go by, the world is shifting from rigid packaging to flexible packaging. People have grown more aware of (and concerned about) the issue of sustainability, not only in their own buying practices but as a reflection of a brand’s social responsibility. If you want to stay on the cutting edge of consumer preferences, maybe it’s time you made this shift as well.

Which Packaging Should You Choose For Your Products?

So which form of packaging will best suit your needs? To answer that question, let’s do a quick rundown of your needs and priorities:

  • Environmental impact – Flexible packaging tends to use both less material and more sustainable material.
  • Impact protection – Go with rigid packaging if you’re selling a fragile or pressurized product.
  • Freshness protection – Resealable flexible packaging wins this one, with the possible exception of resealable jars.
  • Brand personalization – Flexible packaging naturally stands out on the shelf compared to ordinary, traditional rigid packaging.
  • Cost-effectiveness – You’ll spend less on shipping/handling when you go with lightweight flexible packaging.

Why Choose Copious Bags for Your Flexible Packaging Needs

Even if you know you want flexible packaging, you still need to decide on your best resource. That’s where Copious Bags stands out as the obvious selection for most packagers’ needs.

Our strong, reliable bags come in a variety of options, including natural kraft paper, sleek black kraft paper, clear plastic windows, and even all-clear or frosted plastic to help show off your product’s contents.

Copious Bags also offers speedy order processing and shipping. We can provide you with the flexible packaging you need to save money, move more products, and support the environment. Contact us today to learn more.

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