Product packaging is part of your brand DNA. Getting the ‘unboxing experience’ right can have a serious impact on your sales.
However, getting the packaging right when importing from China can be a challenge. In this article we explain everything Importers must know about product packaging when outsourcing production:
1. Buying custom designed packaging or supplier standard packaging
2. MOQ requirement
3. Design and material customization options
4. Price examples
5. Barcodes, packaging labels and regulations
Do I need to find a packaging supplier on my own?
No, you generally don’t need to source a product packaging manfuacturer on your own. Instead, manufacturers work with specialized packaging suppliers, from which they order on a regular basis.
I recommend that you work with the your manufacturers packaging subcontractor, as long as you don’t intend to create a customized packaging.
If you do, however, it makes more sense to work directly with a packaging manufacturer, that will produce a certain number of boxes that are sent to the ‘main supplier’.
Product packaging design options
When buying product packaging from China, you basically have two options. You either use an existing product packaging, or you design one on your own:
Option 1: Custom designed product packaging (OEM)
This approach is somewhat complicated. First of all, you must design the packaging according to the product shape and dimensions. Never rely on your supplier to make final adjustments to your packaging design.
Chinese suppliers are accustomed to a “make to order” approach, and simply forward clients product packaging designs to their subcontract.
Unless you have previous experience designing product packaging, you may want to get help from a professional. If you decide to do it yourself, keep track of the following specifications:
- Material (e.g. PVC plastic)
- Lock type
- Surface lamination (e.g. glossy)
- Outer dimensions
- Inner dimensions
- Printing (e.g. Silk screen printing and Offset printing)
- Pantone colors
Customized product packaging also requires additional tooling. Tooling costs are always paid by the buyer, but varies depending on the type of tooling.
That said, product packaging tooling costs are usually quite low, and rarely adds up to more than a few hundred dollars.
OEM packaging sample development can take time though. Expect a lead time of around 2 to 4 months.
Option 2: Using a factory designed product packaging (ODM)
Most suppliers have 5 to 20 different standard packaging models for their customers selection. You cannot customize the dimensions, materials or design – but you can customize the following:
- Colors (Standard color or pantone color)
- Other prints
The main benefit is that you will save a ton of time. ODM samples are often as cheap as $30 to $50, with a buyer brand. Further, such packaging samples can often be delivered within 3-4 weeks – compared to months for OEM packaging.
Should I go for OEM or ODM packaging?
If you are launching a product for the first time, I don’t think it makes any sense to develop a custom packaging. Mainly because it can add several months to your product launch runway.
An ODM packaging doesn’t offer the same level of high quality material selection, or design customization, but you can still get a fairly good looking box, in a relatively short time.
If you are in a ‘launch stage’ right now, you should focus on getting a product on the market, and not get hung up on cosmetic details that will not have a serious impact on your sales.
Once you’ve got a product out there, and start to see some revenue, you can invest as much time and money as you want into getting perfect packaging.
Product packaging design is not all about posh artwork. Importers in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia (and a bunch of other markets) need to ensure that the product packaging is labelled according applicable labeling regulations.
In many cases, labeling requirements are part of a safety standards, such as CE (Europe) and CPSIA (United States).
Failing to comply with the applicable labeling requirements may result in a forced recall, or even a lawsuit. Keep reading and I’ll explain why.
a. Warning labels
Certain legal acts and directives requires the importer to attach a warning label to the product packaging, in case a product contains a regulated substance. In the case of California Proposition 65, which regulates hundreds of substances in consumer products sold in California, such a warning label shall include one or more of the following sentences:
WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer.
WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm.
WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.
Such labels are certainly not going to make your product fly off the shelves faster. The only way to avoid warning labels is by verifying, through laboratory testing, that the regulated substances are within the legal limits. While California Proposition 65 is only relevant to business based in, or selling to consumers based in, California – similar warning labeling requirements are also outlined in the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA).
In the European Union, warning labels are not as common as in the United States. A logic explanation is that the EU decided to outright ban or strictly regulate substances under the REACH directive. Essentially, you need to ensure compliance or you are not allowed to sell the item at all – with or without a warning label. Click here to read more about product labeling requirements.
b. Compliance marks
Certain directives, including the CE directive in the European Union and FCC in the United States, require the product packaging to contain graphical symbols.
c. Country of origin
Consumer have the legal right to know where a product has been made, before they make a purchase. If the country of origin (e.g. Made in China) printed on the product unit, is not visible through the product packaging, the country of origin must also be printed on product packaging.
d. EAN / UPC / Barcodes
Barcodes are generally not mandatory. However, barcodes are used both by retailers and ecommerce companies to track inventory and sales.
You can purchase barcodes directly from GS1, and send the files to your packaging supplier.
Minimum Order Quantity
The Minimum Order Quantity, or MOQ, for customized product packaging (layout and/or design) is rarely below 1000 pcs. However, the MOQ can be as high as 500o to 10,000 pcs, for customized packaging.
This MOQ is not controlled by the manufacturer, but the print and product packaging subcontractor.
The MOQ for ODM packaging tends to be much lower. Somtimes as low as 300 to 500 pcs, even with the buyer’s logo. ODM also allows for some color customization, as long as you use the suppliers standard colors.
Product packaging regulations
While labeling requirements concerns the item inside the packaging, there are also directives and legal acts specifically regulating packaging design, mechanical properties and substances. In the United States, the Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA) regulates packaging for household items that may be harmful to children.
Most packaging regulations require the importer to ensure compliance with one or more ASTM (United States) or EN ISO (European Union) standards.
Contact us today, if you want to know more about how we can help you ensure compliance when importing from China.
Ready to import and launch your own product?
We know how hard it can be to go from an idea, to a mass produced and profitable product. The Starter Package is the only all-in-one solution that includes everything you need to get through every step of the process:
a. Private Label & OEM Product Manufacturer Lists
b. Product Specification Templates
c. Product Label Samples
d. Compliance Document Samples
e. Tutorials, Video Walkthroughs and Task Lists that guide you step-by-step through the entire process
In addition, you can also book quality inspections, lab testing and shipping directly from the platform. Click here to learn more.