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Peeling Back The Layer Of Paper Packaging
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Peeling Back The Layers Of Paper-Based Packaging

Packaging is probably not something most of us think about very often, but it is quite possibly something that touches our lives on a daily basis.

Whether we buy an item in a bricks and mortar shop or online, it is likely to have been wrapped in packaging for protection – or for display – at some point in its journey, from manufacturer, to warehouse, to retailer, to our homes.

Packaging performs many roles. It might be purely functional, protecting its contents from knocks, bangs and scuffs, or it might be a central part of a product’s presentation. Whatever the purpose, most packaging has one thing in common: it’s made from paper.

Let me take you on a packaging journey, peeling back the layers of paper-based packaging along the way. To illustrate, I’ll use the various stages of packaging a bottle of perfume.

The Perfume Box: Luxury Packaging At Its Finest

Perfume – depending on the brand, of course – is an expensive, luxury item, although some might consider it a necessity. It’s often the closest many of us will come to owning a product from a high-end fashion house. The packaging – how it looks, feels and functions – plays an important role in conveying a brand’s story.

Perfume boxes are made from high quality paperboards, which combine strength with foldability, printability and tactility. First and foremost, the packaging’s role is to protect the fragile glass bottle inside from breakage. Packaging also plays a crucial role in ensuring the perfume is protected from direct light and temperature fluctuations, both of which can shorten the life of the scent.

Packaging Real Estate

Perfume packaging provides valuable real estate to convey brand messaging. The perfume box will be printed with the brand logo and colours along with other text, perhaps including elements of gold or silver foil.

It might also feature a texture associated with a particular brand or perfume name; for example, the surface might have a texture of linen, leather or snakeskin, which are achieved through either embossing or debossing the paperboard.

The Transit Box: Strong And Protective

For its onward journey from factory to warehouse or distribution centre, the bottle of perfume in its luxury box will need to be carefully packed into strong and protective transit packaging to ensure it arrives at its destination in pristine condition.

Corrugated board is one of the most common forms of transit packaging. Lightweight and strong, it is made from layers of paper joined together. Sitting between the two external ‘liner’ papers is the inner ‘fluted’ layer – this wavy structure gives the packaging its strength, durability and insulating properties. Even stronger board is made by combining layers of corrugate to create ‘double-walled’ cardboard.

Once packed, with perhaps 6, 12 or 24 boxed perfume bottles, the box will be sealed with tape which might also be made from paper.

Pallet Wrapping: Keeping Transit Boxes Safe

For the next stage in the perfume bottle’s journey, the transit box is loaded onto a pallet, which is then loaded onto a vehicle.

The pallet might be loaded with, say, 60 transit boxes, all the same size. To stop them toppling over, the boxes need to be secured to the pallet. One of the most common ways to do this is to wrap the pallet in a stretch film. Traditionally, this has been a plastic film, which is difficult to recycle; however, new technological advancements have led to the development of paper-based stretch film that is fully recyclable.

The Brand Experience: Buying Instore

Paper-based packaging is an integral part of the experience of going into a physical shop to buy a bottle of perfume.

While not strictly packaging, paper-based materials are used in almost every aspect of the buying process, from a branded promotional display to the perfume test strip a sample of perfume might have been sprayed onto.

At the till, more layers of paper-based packaging are introduced. If the perfume is a present, it might be gift wrapped, but even if it isn’t, higher end retailers often add layers of tissue paper inside the branded paper bag, adding scent to them to complete the feel-good purchase.

The Brand Experience: Buying Online

Would our current love affair with online shopping be possible without paper packaging? I doubt it somehow. Buying the bottle of perfume online from an upmarket retailer or direct from the brand, will see many layers of paper-based packaging brought together to deliver the brand experience to our doorsteps.

This final stage of the perfume bottle’s journey will see a little more pizzazz introduced to the transit packaging – no one wants to receive their order of a luxury item turn up in a boring cardboard box! The ‘unboxing’ experience has become something of a phenomenon over recent years as people share online their excitement of receiving a purchase.

However, security can also be an issue, so brands will often leave the outer layer of packaging unprinted, so it looks like any other brown box delivery. Open it up, though, and the full brand experience is revealed.

A huge amount of expertise goes into designing the packaging, from the easy-tear strips to the way the box is folded. Modern printing technology means cardboard boxes can now be printed in full colour, so once the easy-tear strip has been peeled back, the consumer is presented with an on-brand interior that includes the logo and possibly even personalised text. More and more frequently, brands and retailers are also including information on packaging about the origins and recyclability of the packaging materials they use.

To keep the box of perfume from rolling around inside, the transit box will be filled with protective packaging in the form of tissue paper or suspension packaging – a die-cut paper-board interior into which the perfume box is slotted into, ensuring it takes centre stage when the box is opened.

Paper-Based Packaging And Sustainability

The great thing about all the paper-based packaging described above? It’s all fully recyclable in kerb-side domestic recycling streams.

What’s more, the paper recycling rate in Europe was 70.5% in 2022, keeping fibres in the loop longer and extending the benefits of their renewable origin.

Paper’s Endless Versatility

Next time you buy a bottle of perfume, whether in a shop or online, take note of all the packaging and what it’s made of – chances are it will be made from paper.

The Paper Fact File

Paper is one of the most sustainable and recycled materials in the world!

Visit the Paper Fact File to discover the facts about paper’s sustainable attributes. Some might surprise you!