Specifying Cartons for Protecting a Product – Part 3

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Special Carton Enhancements

Almost every folding carton is going to need some external coating applied. Whether these coatings are high-gloss UV or a lesser gloss aqueous, the thinking is that their primary purpose is more for enhancing the look of the carton rather than for its functionality. These coatings actually do provide some moisture protection, prevent the box from scuffing, and enhance the production speed as it goes through an automated filling line.

So far this story has focused more on a folding carton’s value as a secondary package enabling the primary package – the film canister- to be efficiently shipped from point of manufacture to point of sale. The additional value a folding carton can now offer is in the display process. The paperboard carton sits well on a retail shelf, or a fifth panel with a delta punch may be added to hang it from a hook. Those sealed glue flaps now help avoid pilferage and clearly provide evidence in the event the contents have been tampered with. If you see a product with a seal or glue flap that has been broken it is a clear signal not to buy that product. Retailers benefit from this protection in that it helps prevent a thief from removing a more expensive product from one carton, and then placing it inside the carton of a cheaper product. The torn flaps would warn the cashier of some type of pilferage.

To get to the actual product, the film in this case, you would most likely just tear away one of the glue flaps on a side panel. For some other products, such as crackers, the user is only going to consume part of the contents at a single use so that is why the carton has been designed with a tuck flap to easily reseal the carton after each use. Other carton styles may be specially designed to include methods of dispensing the product for a single use. Hot cereal cartons have long had a spout built into the carton for this purpose.

The adhesives and paper combination is designed to display “fiber tear” if the box has been torn open. This may not be quite the concern with a film carton, but it is a huge concern with a food or an over-the-counter (OTC) product. Touching on the topic of OTC products, these along with pharmaceuticals and many other products are clearly identified with a serial number on the carton face. This serial number provides traceability of the product back to when it was originally filled. It is important to “knock-out” a space on the carton in the location of this serial since the ink jet numbers may not adhere to a coating. Along with serial numbers, expiration dates may be ink-jetted to the carton if applicable, another valuable means of protection – for both the consumer and the retailer. Smart tags such as RFID labels were supposed to replace these ink jet codes on some future date but haven’t yet due to cost. Another tag that has been used applied to the inside of the carton for years is the anti-theft label, an effective tool developed to protect retailers from theft.

In Summary

Properly protecting a finished product involves three primary considerations:

  • How is the product being filled at point of manufacture
  • How is the product being distributed and palletized
  • How is the product being displayed at point of sale


Impressions Inc. uses the following list of questions to help guide customers through the carton specification process. These questions could be far more expansive if space permitted. We would be happy to guide anyone through the process. Please contact us if interested.

  • What is the fragility of the product?
  • Are there any environmental concerns?
  • What is the manufacturing process: product nature, form, vulnerabilities, regulations, level of automation?
  • What is the packaging process: primary, secondary, tertiary?
  • What are the manufacturer warehouse requirements: location, conditions, cycle times, pallet type?
  • What are the distribution methods?
  • What are the retailer’s warehouse requirements?
  • What are the end use (consumer) requirements?
  • What are the disposal considerations?


A trained package engineer can assist you with these concerns – if they understand these criteria. A prototype is created which then can be used for testing. Carton specifications can be developed which can be used for estimating. Taken together, these two steps provide the foundation to determine a packaging strategy for protecting your product.

If the product is highly fragile or sensitive to the elements –such as photographic film- then a more durable primary package will need to be specified. If not excessively fragile, there are many features such as coatings or film barriers, and dividers and inserts that can be specified in the carton to provide greater protection.

A packaging engineer is a necessary and invaluable resource for planning a folding carton project.

They understand what is needed to get your product from point of manufacture to point of display in one piece.


Author: Nicole Hannover

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