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    Outer packaging – definition and examples from everyday life

    What exactly is outer packaging? How does it differ from retail packaging and what are its advantages? Find answers to frequently asked questions and real-world examples.

    The underestimated outer packaging

    Outer packaging is often lost in everyday life, but it plays an important role – it not only has an impact on the efficiency of the supply chain, but also on consumer perception.

    With the help of practical examples, you can find out what other types of packaging are available and what makes outer packaging so special. What are the legal requirements? What impact do outer packaging have on the environment and what opportunities for optimisation are there? Find out more in our FAQ.

    What is outer packaging?

    The outer packaging is a second packaging around the primary packaging of the goods. It is used to protect and present the products. Colloquially, the term "outer packaging" is often used for shipping packaging in addition to its actual meaning. To understand the differences, you need to know the different types of packaging.

    Sales Packaging

    Sales packaging is considered primary packaging. This is the direct or first layer of protection that immediately surrounds a product. It is the smallest packaging unit for the product in question. Examples are cans, bottles, tubes or blister packs.


    The outer packaging is the secondary packaging. It bundles several individual products or primary packaging into one larger unit to facilitate handling, storage and transport. Typical examples of outer packaging are cartons, boxes, shrink wrap, trays or trays.

    Tertiary packaging

    Tertiary packaging is the outermost layer of the packaging hierarchy. They combine several secondary packages. They are used to safely stack and transport larger quantities of products. Examples are shipping boxes, pallets or containers for wholesale.

    Examples of outer packaging

    Window Packaging

    Viewing windows are a typical element of many outer packaging. Explore different options in our store.


    An exceptional example of successful outer packaging is our sustainable bag-in-box solutions for beverages.

    Shipping Packaging

    Do you understand outer packaging in a broader sense? Then browse through our wide range of shipping packaging.

    Why do goods need outer packaging?

    Depending on the type, nature and size of the goods, the individual reasons for outer packaging may vary. Essentially, however, the following factors are decisive.


    Outer packaging allows for better stackability and thus also optimises the storability of products. In this way, storage space can be used more efficiently. It also makes it easier to control inventory.


    Outer packaging offers protection against external influences during transport, such as shocks, vibrations and weather conditions. This ensures that the goods arrive at their destination in perfect condition.


    The outer packaging can also be used as a presentation aid in sales . Advertising prints can increase the visual appeal of the product. But the physical presentation can also be upgraded – for example, by using tray packaging for confectionery.


    The outer packaging offers space for important information such as product descriptions, instructions for use, ingredient lists and nutritional information – or even for the labelling of dangerous goods.

    Outer packaging – the FAQ

    The need for outer packaging depends heavily on the type of product, its specific requirements and the distribution channel. Here are some examples of products that often require outer packaging:

    • Food: Fresh products such as meat, fruit and vegetables often need protection from external influences. However, processed foods are also usually presented in outer packaging.
    • Electronics: Electronic products such as smartphones, computers or household appliances are usually delivered in protective outer packaging to prevent damage.
    • Cosmetics and care products: Items such as perfumes, creams, and cosmetic products are often sold in outer packaging to maintain the integrity of the product and emphasize the design.
    • Pharmaceuticals: Medicines and health products often require special outer packaging to ensure their effectiveness and ensure the correct dosage.
    • Clothing: Textile products are often delivered in outer packaging to protect them from contamination and to ensure a certain level of presentation.
    • Drugstore items: Products in drugstores, such as cleaning products or toilet paper, are often sold in outer packaging to make them easier to handle and better presented.
    • Beverages: Outer packaging is also suitable for safe bottle packaging. They stabilize the sensitive goods during transport and protect against breakage.

    If goods are sufficiently protected by their nature or their sales packaging, repackaging is not always necessary. For example, various types of fruit or bulk materials such as screws do not necessarily require outer packaging, but cosmetics such as toothpaste can also do without.

    Basically, outer packaging results in production costs and waste. This increases the CO2 footprint of a product. Companies can counteract this by optimising their outer packaging. 

    Companies can optimize the use of outer packaging by using sustainable materials , using easily recyclable or reusable packaging, reducing packaging, and choosing efficient designs. Optimizing logistics processes can also help minimize the need for outer packaging. Another bonus would be to design the outer packaging as frustration-free packaging.

    Regulatory requirements vary by country and region, but may include regulations for eco-friendly packaging, recycling rates, labeling requirements, and measures to reduce packaging waste. Companies need to comply with these regulations and integrate them into their packaging strategies to meet regulatory requirements.

    In Germany , the following laws are relevant, among others:

    • Packaging Ordinance: Section 5 of the Packaging Ordinance prescribes an obligation to take back secondary packaging. Distributors are obliged to set up collection containers on their premises where end consumers can properly dispose of outer packaging.
    • Packaging Act: In accordance with the licensing obligation under the Packaging Act, outer packaging must be registered for a dual system by the initial distributor. To do this, the initial distributor (usually the manufacturer of the product) needs a LUCID number.

    Conclusion: Plenty of room for optimisation

    From securing goods during storage and transport, to displaying them in retail stores, to providing important information to consumers, the importance of outer packaging is undeniable.

    Despite its practical advantages, it is important to critically question the environmental impact of this packaging practice. Companies are faced with the challenge of finding innovative and environmentally friendly solutions to optimize the use of outer packaging while meeting the demands of the supply chain and consumers – this is where Model comes in.

    We support you from the design to the production of sustainable outer packaging that reliably protects your goods and presents them in style.


    Individual outer packaging

    Do you want to have outer packaging produced for your products? We are the specialist for sustainable and well-thought-out packaging. Contact us for a non-binding initial consultation.


    Outer packaging in the model shop