Food Packaging Materials

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Woman in a grocery store with a basket full of groceries.

Food packaging uses a wide variety of materials in a range of different formats.

This helps to ensure packaged products are well protected, stay fresh and display appropriate information about the contents. As a result, a diverse selection of adhesives is required to cater to the specific requirements of each food packaging application.  

Click on the tabs below to learn about key characteristics of common food packaging and the categories of adhesives used to bond them.

Common Food Packaging Types

A wide range of cartonboard grades are available to cater to a broad spectrum of applications. To ensure the box is robust and fit for purpose, several types of adhesives are used to construct and secure it: 

  • Water-based adhesives are used for the side seams and, in some cases, bottom closure. 
  • Hot melt adhesives are used for carton closure on the top and bottom. 

An optional inliner can be used, which is typically constructed from one of the following materials: paper, plastic or multi-layer materials. In the case of folding cartons, the most appropriate material for the inliner should be selected. 

Barrier functionality can also be incorporated into the packaging. Various barrier materials are available, each with specific functionality (e.g. oxygen or moisture barriers), allowing the customer to select the most appropriate for their requirements. The barrier thickness, product storage temperature, duration of storage and the foodstuff itself are all criteria that will affect the choice of barrier. Barrier materials available include aluminum, paper and various types of plastic.

Corrugated box for secondary and tertiary packaging

Corrugated boxes for secondary and tertiary packaging are typically made of kraft paper. Starch additives are used to provide strength, water resistance and other desirable properties. The box is constructed with a side seam sealed with water-based adhesives. Hot melt adhesives or self-adhesive tapes can be used to close the box and a self-adhesive label may be applied. 

MORE ON CASE AND CARTON SEALING

Plastic or paper labels are added to bottles, jars, cans and containers of all shapes and sizes, and made of plastic (often PET), glass or metal. Based on the label and container properties, water-based or hot melt adhesives can be used to fix the label to the container. Read more on container and beverage labeling here.

There are several types of flexible packaging in use today:  

  • Simple plastic bags: Constructed from layers of materials such as oriented polypropylene (OPP), these are ideal for products like dry pasta, rice, etc. 
  • Triplex pouches: Constructed from layers of materials, such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), aluminum and cast polypropylene (CPP), these are great for ready-to-eat food, pet food, etc. 

Read more about flexible packaging.

Several types of plastic and paper bags are used to package food products in the retail environment: 

Paper shopper

Paper shopping bags are made of white, brown or colored kraft paper, using water-based adhesives for the side seam, bottom seam and handle attachment. 

Paper sugar / flour bag

Paper bags are used for a whole host of packaging solutions in retail, and a wide range of paper grades is available, allowing food producers to select the ideal material for the application in hand. Typically, water-based adhesives are used for bottom sealing and side seam applications to shape the bag and hot melt adhesives are used to seal the bag. 

Bagged fresh produce

Bags manufactured from a variety of plastics are used to package fresh produce. A self-adhesive label bearing product information is usually applied using pressure-sensitive adhesives.

Paper towels are constructed using water-based adhesives and tissue fibers, while the core is made with cardboard and water-based adhesives.  

MORE ON PAPER TOWELS

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