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Survey: E-commerce packaging materials, pain points, and methods

Results show that secondary packaging’s protective capacity—its ability to safely deliver intact product through the many-touch delivery chain—is the number one factor on brands’ minds when selecting e-commerce packaging materials. Brands are less likely to modify their primary package for this channel, though more advanced brands are more willing to do so.

Packaging for E-commerce
Packaging for E-commerce

According to Think Inside the Box, a recent study published by PMMI’s Business Intelligence, only 39% of brand owners that are testing the e-commerce waters are looking to change their primary packaging for the e-commerce channel. But when asked the same question of secondary packaging, that number jumps to 71%. Meanwhile, 72% of CPGs and food and beverage brand owners are looking for new materials with greater durability to prevent product damage. 

With this in mind, Packaging World surveyed its readership in early 2019 to see what insights could be gleaned on primary and secondary packaging material selection for the e-commerce channel. The survey was underwritten by Sealed Air’s Product Care Solutions, and the following results are produced and presented by Packaging World’s editorial team.

Chart 1—Brand Manufacturers

In a series of online surveys conducted in January and February 2019,Packaging World magazine asked its online readership—brand owners, CPGs, and other end users of packaging machinery and materials—about their approach to e-commerce. We received 297 responses. After filtering to remove from the data set responses from suppliers, responses from contract packagers, and responses from those who indicated they weren’t doing or even planning on doing any e-commerce programs, we arrived at a target set of 185 qualified brand owner participants. Additionally, 21 qualified contract packager responses were collected, but are omitted here since the packaging process looks very different to them. This report and all graphics, charts, and conclusions are based on the answers provided by the 185 qualified respondents.

Chart 2—Demographics of respondents—Industry

Material Selection Survey underwritten by Sealed Air’s Product Care Solutions
Completed byPackaging World magazine’s editorial staff, this survey of qualifiedPackaging World readers was underwritten by Sealed Air’s Product Care Solutions. This division of the company aims to create a world that works better by eliminating waste throughout the global supply chain including wasted material, energy, space, time, labor, and money. Products protected by SealedAir packaging solutions ship more efficiently and arrive safer through its innovative solutions. For more information, visit

Chart 3—Demographics of respondents—E-commerce activity level

Chart 4—Demographics of respondents—Distribution method

Chart 5—General results—Factors leading to package material selection

Chart 6—General results—Current e-comm fulfillment setup

Chart 7—General results—Secondary packaging material

Chart 8—Do you customize primary packaging for e-commerce?

Chart 9—Where e-comm effort, budget is going

Chart 10—Freight and delivery pain points

Chart 11—Return logistics automation

Chart 12—How will e-commerce packaging lines change in coming years

Chart 13—E-commerce sophistication level

Chart 14—Advanced brand owners stress protective value of secondary package material

Chart 15—Advanced brands more willing to adapt primary package to e-commerce

Chart 16—Statistics

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