A look at Tertiary Packaging: What type of packaging?

Packaging Logistics is defined as developing packaging and packaging systems that support the logistics process and meet customer demands. In logistics, a well-functioning packaging system creates time, place, form, and ownership benefits in the product about the customer— an undamaged product in an easy-to-handle package that is easily disposed of.

Transport packaging is a term used throughout the world— where it is often known as distribution or protective packaging.

WHAT is tertiary packaging?

First, understand what tertiary packaging is – if the packaging is directly loaded in the truck, conduct as tertiary packaging.


A package should be designed to provide optimal storage, sales, and subsequent waste management efficiency. Good packaging affects material handling in terms of load stability, stackability, and compatibility with different forms of mechanization and automation. The choice of a packaging system is a complicated task, and it should be based on market considerations, performers involved in the process logistics, and environmental requirements. Small changes in a packaging system affect the distribution channel in many different ways. 


Packaging is also essential for shippers and materials managers closely tied to warehouse and transportation efficiency functions. Good packaging can positively impact layout and design and overall warehouse productivity. With the need for a holistic approach and a trend toward a more extended and more complex Supply/Demand Chain, a method called Packaging Scorecard (PSC) is introduced in Packaging Logistics. PSC helps to evaluate the performance of the packaging system in the SDC and reduce packaging waste. Lately, the concepts of PSC have been widely used by distributors and retailers.


Distribution packaging is distinct from consumer packaging in that, in most instances, distribution packaging is used for the large-scale shipment of materials or components to be used in the manufacture of other products. These are typically shipped in multiple quantities and are seldom labeled for use by the consumer. 

Some notable exceptions are the bulk distribution of gasoline, landscaping materials, or even water in remote areas. “Large-scale” may be a relative term as well, considering the distribution packaging for high-value items such as pharmaceuticals or electronics, which are physically small and go against the notion of a considerable bulk shipping container filled with product. 

Most often, the distribution of goods such as food ingredients and machine parts from suppliers to manufacturers involves the most economically advantageous quantity to be shipped, whether it is a tanker truck full of molten chocolate or a single case of high-value pharmaceutical ingredients. This, in turn, depends on the production needs of the customer. Distribution packaging for food items depends on the food material, order quantity, and intended use. 

For use in small restaurants or delicatessens, food items are packaged in substantially different systems than bulk ingredients intended for use in large food-manufacturing operations. Bulk transport of food ingredients in the most economically efficient manner may involve large tanker vehicles or intermediate bulk containers. The distribution system must correctly load, transport, receive, and use the product if these are to be used. 

Sanitation, temperature control, and specialized loading and unloading systems may be required to make the best use of large-scale shipping, but the workforce and handling efficiency savings can be enormous. The dairy industry is the most pervasive example, with temperature and time-controlled shipment and clean transfer and handling facilities from the dairy to the consumer.

#1 INTERMEDIATE Bulk Containers (IBC) 

These are large containers that can hold and ship ingredients and can be constructed in many variations to suit the product and the nature of the distribution system. These are often sized to the approximate footprint of a standard shipping pallet, although larger ones for specialized loads such as live fish fingerlings may be the width of the transport vehicle. These containers nearly always require mechanical handling assistance, most often a forklift, overhead hoist, or similar device. 

tertiary packaging, what is tertiary packaging
Source: Greif

Rare exceptions exist that have been built for aircraft assemblies and may be fitted with casters to allow manual movement. Rigid-wall IBC systems may be constructed of plywood, welded steel wire, molded plastic or corrugated paper, or CoroplastTM and can be linked to provide a sealed environment to any degree necessary. The latter is essential because it allows the container for bulk liquid or semi-liquid ingredient shipping from production facilities in one location to another, including trans-oceanic shipment without contamination. 

Less stringent conditions permit the load of nearly any type of material such as grains, flours, and plastic resins. IBC systems may be designed as returnable, semi-returnable, or one-trip containers, depending on the nature of the product, the distribution system, and the customer’s requirements. Returnable systems may be emptied, with the liners – if present – removed and folded flat for the return shipment. Semi-returnable systems may have a recyclable sidewall made of corrugated and a returnable bottom pallet. One-trip containers are made to be recycled or disposed of after a single trip and maybe more lightly designed. These containers can be ordered with specialty fitments to allow product unloading, pump out, drainage, or other functions as necessary.

#2 FLEXIBLE Intermediate Bulk Containers

tertiary packaging, what is tertiary packaging
Source: John Pac

Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers (Jumbo Bags) are, as their name implies, made of flexible materials and are designed to be handled from above-using sling straps that are an integral part of the container design. These containers are intended for use with dry granular materials ranging from fine pharmaceutical powders to crushed stone and, although they are available in any size necessary, are often sized to be half the width of the shipping vehicle so that they sit two-across in the truck bed. These can be fabricated of a range of fabrics, liners, and coatings – although polypropylene (PP) with various coatings for static electricity dissipation, UV protection, or food contact predominates – and may have a polyethylene or polypropylene liner. FIBC systems may be designed with filling and emptying spouts in the top and bottom of the bag and a variety of lifting sling arrangements to suit the handling systems and bag capacity.

#3 BAG-in-Box Packaging 

tertiary packaging, what is tertiary packaging
Source: ScholleIPN

Besides the standard shipping container and large steel can, many ingredients such as cleaning agents, fruit juice, milk, soft-drink syrups, and toppings for hamburger and pizza operations may use a bag-in-box system allowing the pumped application to speed processes. Bag-in-box packaging is often a corrugated container fitted with a flexible plastic bag and usually a dispensing or emptying fitment. They are typically lined with a high-barrier liner bag to preserve the contents and, because of the flexibility of the container, are not well-suited to carbonated beverages. These have almost completely replaced the heavy stainless steel syrup containers used in carbonated beverage dispensing and are often part of fast food and self-serve restaurant operations. These are seldom seen at the consumer level, except for some cleaning agents, juices, and extensive wine containers (which suffer from a persistent perception of poor quality). Ankerbrau breweries in Nordlingen, Germany, have produced a 25-liter bag-in- ¨ box beer distribution system with a claimed 8-month shelf life, but this relies on re-carbonating the uncarbonated beer at the time of dispensing.

#4 SHIPPING Sacks | Bags 

tertiary packaging, what is tertiary packaging
Source: John Pac

The “burlap bag” has always been synonymous with the shipping of loose materials ranging from citrus fruit to grain, but in the last several decades has largely been replaced with mesh, paper, paper-composite, and plastic shipping sacks for bulk materials ranging from dog food to cement. For applications requiring extreme strength and puncture resistance, bags may be made of woven polyethylene or polypropylene, either alone or in conjunction with other layers for lining and labeling. These are traditionally filled and then sewn shut, although heat-sealing, tapes, and adhesives have begun to replace these methods to speed production and aid in consumer utilization. Additionally, handles, spouts, zip seals, or other features may be added as required. Sizes are typically limited by the product’s density, with 40kg bags of cement being near the limit of practical use and less dense items such as dog food available in 20 kg bags.

#5 JERRYCAN, Drums, and Pails 

tertiary packaging, what is tertiary packaging
Source: Greif

JerryCAN, Drums, and pails are a standard method of supplying small quantities of bulk ingredients such as pastry filling or soy sauce to operations such as bakeries and restaurants. Food ingredients may be hot-filled and then shipped for use in the foodservice operation, and aseptic liners may be added if necessary.

tertiary packaging, what is tertiary packaging
Source: Greif

JerryCAN, which often are blow-molded containers made to lay flat on a shelf with a dispenser feature hanging over the edge, can be used to contain and dispense everything from sauces to detergents.


Pallets as a tertiary packaging are flat platforms that provide spacing for mechanical material-handling devices to move intermediate loads of goods while assisting in the stability of the load.

tertiary packaging, what is tertiary packaging
Source: Vishvajyoti group

Most often, pallets are moved by manual pallet jacks or motorized fork trucks that move across the relatively smooth floor surfaces encountered in modern material handling. It is also possible to use pallets with sling lifts and roller or belt conveyor systems, although these uses are less common. Pallets may be made in a variety of sizes and any number of materials, but wood predominates, particularly for reusable pallets, with plastic and paper pallets gaining ground, particularly for one-way trips and specialized loads that may require custom features on the pallet deck.

#7 SLIP Sheets 

Slip sheets are simple, heavy-duty sheets that allow material-handling equipment to slide thin metal plates (fitted to a standard fork truck) under a unitized load of containers without using a pallet, saving weight, space, and money. These may be used with a push-pull device that efficiently slides the load on and off the tines. These systems are best suited for packaged items such as lightweight consumer goods in stabilized shipments that do not need any support from the pallet. They are typically less than approximately 12 mm in thickness, are usually made of plastic laminated paper or heavy plastic to reduce friction, and will have lips on the edges of the load where handling access is required.

#8 WOOD, Crates, and Boxes 

Once the iconic container for distribution and long-range shipping, wooden crates and boxes have become cost-prohibitive for most items and somewhat unnecessary for long-distance shipping protection with the advent of the intermodal shipping container.

softbox systems, softbox packaging, softbox temperature control packaging system, cooling packaging
Source: Softbox

Although used in consumer applications where a wooden case will add marketing appeals, such as alcoholic beverages, cosmetics, and occasionally fresh fruit, wooden crates and boxes are seldom used in food packaging except as bulk haulers in growing operations. The ISPM-15 restrictions on untreated wood used for international shipment limit their use. In most cases, wooden boxes have plywood or chipboard panels (eliminating the infestation concern), and crates are made of lumber slats. These are often used for large machinery shipments and specialty applications that may not travel in standard distribution methods other than low-value consumer goods.

What do you think about Packaging Engineer?


Vihaan Nagal

संवेष्टन अभियान्ता | Packaging Engineer | Verpackung Ingenieur *Free time blogger *Believe in packaging reform (say naa to orthodox packaging) My life lies between degradable and non-degradable material.

One thought on “A look at Tertiary Packaging: What type of packaging?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *