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Custom Shipping Box

Packaging 101: Basic Box Packaging Definitions and Terminologies


Everything You Need to Know from Box Styles to Materials

Boxes have been used since the earliest days of civilization, evolving from large chests used to store precious items and crates for ferrying produce to the handy cardboard containers we know today which are used for everything from groceries and medicines to clothes and shoes.

While boxes are used by practically everyone these days, not everyone is clued in on the technical specifications involved in box packaging or the jargon used in the creation of custom packaging.

This page serves as a backgrounder that defines specific terms used here on when we work on the different boxes that we produce for customers like you.


Box packaging is defined as any container used as a receptacle for permanent storage or as a temporary holder for transporting items from one point to another, as in the case of products shipped from manufacturer to retailer and later from retailer to customer.

While boxes used for permanent storage are normally made with metal or heavy wood, those used to package products for retail or wholesale distribution are made from hard-wearing cardboard in the form of either cardstock or corrugated board, or even thin plastic.

These come in a wide range of sizes, from small ones for matches to massive boxes for large appliances like widescreen televisions or refrigerators.

While boxes are typically square in shape, they may be cut to a desired shape for a specific purpose, as in the case of whimsically designed boxes for apparel, children's toys, or gourmet offerings.


General Terms

  • Primary Packaging These are boxes commonly used for retail and a good deal of thought goes into their creation to produce an aesthetically pleasing item that is certain to entice customers to make a purchase. In many cases, the product goes directly into this form of packaging.
  • Secondary Packaging This refers to the container or box that holds several packaged items for shipment and delivery. Defined below, mailers and shipping boxes fall into this category.

Types of Boxes

  • Product Boxes Retail-specific boxes used as either primary (direct placement of product) or secondary (used to hold a container like a jar or bottle) packaging. While the bulk of these items are made with either cardstock or thin plastic, some examples are made with corrugated cardboard and double as POP display cases on store counters.
  • Mailer Boxes These are usually roll-end tuck-front with dust flaps (RETF) boxes made with highly durable corrugated cardboard. These are so named because they are often used for the care-packages sent by families to relatives on remote military duty or in school. In recent years, these have been used by online entrepreneurs and subscription box services that need to ship items to their customers.
  • Shipping Boxes As the name suggests, these are heavy-duty boxes made with thicker, sturdier materials that are used for freighting cargo from one point to another. A common item used for home-movers, these also double as handy storage for large items or for a large collection of items. In the retail context, these are used to carry large items such as household appliances or multiple pallets of a single product for shipment.
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