Creating Commercial Success through Custom Package Design: A Step-by-Step Guide

By Mike Terry
Posted In : packaging design, Sustainability in Packaging, Sustainability, PaperSeal, package design

Premier retail space in today’s market is minimal. As a modern producer, you must do all you can to stand out among your competitors on store shelves, offer new and exciting product advantages to draw in new customers, and build your brand.

Regardless of the size or stage of your business, it falls to you to create and foster real customer connections based on the values of today’s consumers. You want to showcase your inherent creativity to reach a wider audience within your community while operating within the required production parameters and not go over budget.

If that sounds like a tall order, it is.

Time and again, however, operators return to a fundamental principle that has helped them stay focused and foster continued success from day one:

“There are no second chances at making a first impression.”

The key to making that impression a lasting one? Customized packaging design.

Packaging’s Role in Modern Production

No longer just an afterthought, packaging (re)design is being reimagined as a central component of the brand experience across every sector and application. The next generation of operators is looking to stand out in a culture of hyper-personalization, full functionality, eco-conscious consumerism, and minimized waste. Innovative customized packaging design lays the foundation to meet those needs and promote brand growth, product differentiation, and production evolution. It allows brands to convey what they value most (customers, the environment, the consumer experience) with dynamic subtly in a minimized advertising area.

Considering these custom packaging design trends, ask yourself, “How does our packaging stack up?”

If you realize that your packaging may be tired, outdated, or doesn’t meet your consumers’ needs, you’re at a distinct disadvantage. Right now, many of your competitors have embraced and adopted custom packaging design as a key element to bettering their brand and bottom line and you may be playing catchup.

There is hope. Never fear.

Taking the Primary Step in New Packaging Design

The first step is finding a packaging partner OEM with custom packaging capabilities to help your vision take shape.

Though your modern packaging design will be unique – based on application, product, budget, and other production factors – the process will innovate your products from the ground up and give your packaging undeniable appeal. Transform 2D renderings into 3D prototypes in real-time. Get the measurable data you need for better direction, improved revenue, and scalability now and for the future. The possibilities of what you can do are only limited by your imagination.

To begin, you simply need to know the process, what information you’ll need at the onset, and what to expect from your OEM to achieve new and continuing packaging success.

The Packaging Design Process

Packaging design means integrating fresh ideas for your products and brand. Whether you’re a large company with strict, regulated dimensions, production, and safety demands, or a small company starting from scratch, your success will depend on the expert guidance that brings those ideas to life.

This is where working with an experienced OEM will make all the difference. You gain access to expertise, technology, and teams of trained specialists who will show you, step by step, how your packaging can transmogrify to be more production and user-friendly. Working together, you will have the tools to create marketing and revenue advantages previously unavailable with your dated packaging as well as making it more dynamic.

How is this possible? Your custom packaging design partnership benefits you simultaneously on three distinct fronts:

Equipment Compatibility

Designing customized packaging allows you to work on new or existing equipment. Using your own packaging concepts, or adopting recommended designs to put the wheels into motion, you will gain a deep understanding of the machinery you will need – tray seal equipment, flow wrap, thermoformer, vertical packaging machine, ancillary equipment – and how your packaging will interact with that equipment during production. This can be anything from a single piece to fully automatic packaging systems to fit your unique format.

Taking advantage of this expertise as early as possible can shorten your product delivery lead times by up to one day via package and process improvements. Conversely, deciding to delay the packaging design process and collaboration could mean purchasing a mold and producing packaging that causes issues on your production line. The more of those issues you can identify upfront, the greater success you’re going to have.

For example, packaging design is of the utmost importance in tray sealing and forming (though packaging design plays an important role for all applications). Your partner OEM will define how your potential design will work with your current equipment and production line based on past and present testing and real-world experience. You’ll gain essential knowledge concerning tray tooling, functionality, new tray development, material compatibility, and the changes you must make to accommodate your proposed design.

The results? These evaluations can SAVE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF INVESTMENT DOLLARS on new equipment, production improvements, planned and unplanned downtime, and labor costs. In addition, you’ll have measurable testing data through your integrated Allen Bradley Panelview Human Machine Interface (HMI) that will tell you if your packaging flipped, tipped, or rotated during production and what proactive changes to make before they become a costly issue.

Packaging Function

Along with equipment compatibility, testing packaging function is going to be crucial to the success of your overall packaging design. Your partner team is tasked with creatively redesigning and improving your existing packaging without compromising functionality and adding retail and marketing appeal. They must be able to work with tools that will run any of the designs in the allotted time frame, customize to your specifications to ensure superior functionality in live production settings, and proactively address common functionality issues that can hinder your production.

What Are the Most Common Packaging Design Issues?

  • Package Rotation: Oval packages tend to rotate on the line. This movement can be problematic at filling and portioning stations or during the final stages of tray sealing, for example. It is the same thing with circular, multi-compartment trays. You must be able to stabilize, locate trays on the production line, and seal each compartment. Expert OEMs create flats on either side of the tray to add stability and prevent tray rotation. These features are significant when working in-line tray sealers, as they are pushed along rails. Sliding conveyor stability and even weight (not top-heavy) are also paramount.
  • Tooling Changeovers: Tray sealers can also have three to four tools for different trays on the same packing machine. All components must work harmoniously without losing operational function to minimize tooling changeover downtimes.
  • Peelable Packaging Flaws: 90-degree intersections for multi-compartment trays can be problematic, as they make trays more challenging to peel and open. Integrating such intersections into your design can mean damaged or lost product. Reverse angles can also interfere with the seal support frame coming up under the flange, causing production delays, opening problems, and lower efficiency on the line. Expert packaging design creates correct initiation points, peel limitations, and seal widths for trays, eliminating these efficiency gaps and providing better overall throughput.

Improving Packaging Function through Sampling

Determining packaging function reconciles how a package will perform on the line based on the new, updated design. However, that takes testing beyond conversations around a simple 2D rendering.

The right OEM partnership allows you to test and produce results in successive, useful stages based on your production needs. Whether transferring your 2D sketch into 3D renderings or producing the intended packaging design via 3D printed prototypes and market samples, you can package product and test packaging to ascertain the design’s production viability and determine next steps.


Like improved function and machine compatibility, packaging design can augment retail marketability for increased sales and revenue. However, without that all-important customer connection that comes from a positive product experience, your newly designed package sits on the shelf, never helping you build your brand or realize your Return on Investment (ROI).

Your partner OEM’s legacy knowledge and customized engineering capabilities ensure optimized marketability from the onset, guiding every aspect of your packaging, regardless of format or application. Your ideas – no matter how detailed – are followed to the letter, planned perfectly, then brought to life using state-of-the-art equipment to match modern consumer needs.

However, leading-edge product marketing fuels your dynamic design beyond upfront creative ideas. For instance, today’s packaging design overhauls allow you to see and touch the packaged product, hold it in your hands, and sign off on that experience yourself (like your customer would).

You become an integral part of creating ideas that help your customers. With your blessing, your partnership then brings the packages of the future to life with full graphics, interactive elements, and 360-degree product views in an environment that nurtures better brand awareness, company values, and commercial success.

Why Custom Design or Redesign My Packaging at All? 

At this point, we know WHERE and HOW a partnership with an expert OEM can reinvigorate your packaging. But what about “the why?” What commercial benefits can you derive from customized packaging? If your present packaging is part of your company’s current lucrative plan, why change it?

These are all fair questions.

But what do you know about packaging design’s influence on your bottom line? Could you achieve greater success in ALL areas of your packaging operations, including addressing modern consumer trends, improving profits, revenue, single-source supply, and overall scalability?

Without a doubt.

Let us explore the most important ways custom packaging design benefits everyone in the purchase process, from the savvy operator scaling for the future to today’s modern consumer, searching for quality, brand trust, and a brighter future for the planet.

Sustainability & Emerging Trends

Sustainability is one of the hottest trends in modern packaging. Customers are clamoring for it. Producers are integrating it at every turn. Consumers and industry professionals alike understand that sustainable packaging is better for the planet’s health and offers nearly limitless profit potential.

Green packaging design is at the forefront of that movement. Gaining enormous traction and momentum year over year, sustainability guides trends and contemporary packaging beyond polite suggestion, making integrating sustainable materials a must-have.

In answer to the demand, new equipment and custom package design incorporate a variety of cutting-edge, renewable materials, such as:

These materials contain only five to seven percent plastic (on avg.). They are fully recyclable, and, most importantly, are versatile enough to be used on new and existing equipment, such as the G.Mondini Tray Seal machines, at a nearly EQUAL cost ratio to conventional plastic packaging.

Burgers on Paperboard

This price advantage has producers from all sectors – with the highest concentration in perishable food packaging – seeking guidance and sustainable solutions from their partner OEMs, using the most renewable materials for custom packaging. By integrating these materials into their new designs, they can tell their green story and reap brand recognition and financial benefits that derive from eco-conscious customers.

Improved Savings, Revenue & Profits

Profit maximization doesn’t always JUST come from commercial sales. Often, reduced annual costs can optimize your bottom line.

These savings are where a custom packaging design truly shines. Custom packaging design gives you a broad range of cost-effective solutions to run a leaner, more profitable operation by making small yet impactful changes that echo over time.

For instance, reducing the length or width of your tray sealed packaging and giving it depth can better accommodate your products and reduce shipping weight and costs. Utilizing renewable, two-sided flatstock board with skin pack hugs the product, eliminating void spaces and reducing the time and overall packaging costs associated with the empty area surrounding the product at the various stages of production. These changes might seem insignificant, but their benefits to your bottom line can be impressive.

Additionally, modern packaging design can have a DIRECT impact on your sales revenue and brand awareness. With modern packaging improvements, you can get more of your story onto the package via advanced graphic printing and relay your story in a more dynamic way, creating more sales opportunities. Custom designed packaging:

  • Helps you stand out from the generic look of your competitors’ products (stands/hangs on shelves)
  • Offers an instant perception of high-quality and value
  • Improves user-friendliness (easy-open, resealable, reheatable, etc.)
  • Creates profitable brand awareness
  • Acts as the center for marketing campaigns

According to a 2019 eCommerce study, 45 percent of consumers said gift-like packaging translated into an upscale brand impression. Coupling that brand recognition and awareness with your marketing efforts means more conversions, revenue, and potential profits for your operation.


Styrofoam and other non-perishable packaging formats are on their way out. Retail giants in every sector, from grocery store poultry and meat packaging to automotive parts, are saying “no more,” as consumers focus on rising prices and the significant environmental changes.

Custom package design offers you the chance to change with them.

By updating your packaging for better versatility, sustainability, and customer perception, you’re putting your operations in the best possible position to scale as necessary in terms of desirable materials, applications, and formats.

Better still, you put your customers in a more favorable position. Partnering with the right OEM means you can design the ideal containers to meet your customers’ needs.

You can proactively evaluate those containers on your new or existing equipment, and create attractive, machine-ready packaging that conforms to your unique production for better operational efficiency and brand perception for the future.

A Single-Source Supplier

Your custom design goes beyond the benefits of packaging. Partnering with an expert OEM also gives you an all-important single-source supplier who can streamline your production.

Denesting, conveying, volumetric filling, sealing, lidding, secondary packaging, full packing line automation, palletizing systems, ancillary equipment – you now have the resources you need in one place to devise and produce all your operational solutions, diminish market lead times, and save more.

Having a single-source OEM provides you with equipment that integrates with pieces you did not purchase from them and fills in any production gaps where they find them. All of this happens simultaneously as they produce packaging that genuinely sets you apart.

The Future of Packaging Design

No matter the format or application, custom packaging design can only benefit your brand. From optimized production to dynamic marketing and forward-thinking sustainability, when you partner with the right OEM, you get distinctive long-term advantages.

If you know packaging design is the right solution to help revitalize your products and build the right kind of brand recognition, talk to Harpak-ULMA Packaging.

With our advanced 2D and 3D modeling capabilities, and prototyping on the horizon in our state-of-the-art customer center, our teams of trained experts have the knowledge, experience, and technology to fabricate modern single-source packaging uniquely attuned to your operations and centered around efficiency, functionality, and superior attractive design.

Want personalized advice from a packaging expert?

Producers come to us to solve their unique packaging challenges. Tell us about your project and get expert advice today.