News & Tips Blog

The Language of Co-packing

Eira Braun-Labossiere December 09, 2023

Co-packing, like any industry, has a vocabulary unique unto itself. It can be confusing when you’re entering the world of a packaging partnership with your new idea on a beverage or food product.

You might begin your research online, pouring through directories and trying various keywords in the attempt to locate someone in the sphere of co-packing. Sometimes, though, even keywords can be elusive when you’re new to the game, so knowing which terms to use and how to give them context can be useful.

For those of you searching for the kind of co-packer you need, here is a list of terms frequently used in the co-packing industry.

Primary vs. Secondary Co-packer
You are looking for a primary copacker or co-manufacturer (sometimes called a “co-man”) when you require a facility that specializes in mixing ingredients to create your recipe, then filling it into its primary packaging (a box, a can, a bottle, a pouch, etc.)

A secondary co-packer is a pre-retail assembly service provider that handles food and beverage products after they have been manufactured and need to be converted into another format before sale. Kitting, variety pack assembly, pallet display assembly, shrink-wrapping are just a few examples. (Recurve Solutions, for instance, is a secondary co-packer.)

What are “pre-retail” services?
Pre-retail services are utilized when your product needs one more touch before hitting retail shelves – assembly, shrink-wrapping, etc.  It is a service you require prior to its sale, typically for promotional purposes. This is another term for secondary co-packing defined above.

Pallet Displays
When you see pallet displays in banner stores like Costco, Loblaws, Safeway, Walmart, etc., product is showcased by being loaded into trays and stacked on a pallet. They are shopped from by consumers straight from the skid.

MOQ stands for Minimum Order Quantity and typically a condition imposed by co-packers. Why is this so? There is set up and take down time involved with each project so there is usually a tipping point where production runs are too short to justify the preparation and clean up times therefore making the cost per unit too high to be reasonable for the client.

Bundle-Wrapping vs. Shrink-Wrapping vs. Stretch-Wrapping
Bundle-Wrapping – a thick, opaque clear or printed film that encases a tray of goods, then is run through a heat tunnel to shrink down, securing the contents as one unit.

Shrink-wrapping – a thin, clear film used to hold retail multi-packs together as one selling unit, and/or creates a tamper evident seal on a product.

Stretch-wrapping is another kind of film but it is stretchy and is wrapped around a pallet of stacked goods. The wrapping secures goods onto the skid to prevent toppling, making it safe to move around a warehouse by forklift and stable for shipping.

Cartons vs. Trays
In the world of co-packing, we refer to printed folding cartons meaning a paperboard vessel that fully encloses the product inside. It is usually branded and labelled with the contents for retail purposes.

Trays are open on one side and made of corrugate.

CHEPs vs. Regular Pallets
CHEPs are rental pallets, always painted in their signature blue colour.
Many retail chains prefer the standard 40 x 48” size because of their uniformity, making them predictable transferring tools on which to receive retail product.

Regular pallets are sometimes called “whiteboard” pallets. While their standard size is 40 x 48” like a CHEP, their style and quality may not be (or perceived to not be) as standardized as CHEP pallets.

Like learning the terms within a new sport or hobby, there is an entire lexicon on which to educate yourself in the world of co-packing. Hopefully, the language introduced here will help in giving you a start to this specialized vocabulary.

Click here to check our Glossary for more co-pack industry terms you may be curious about.

While most co-packers have MOQs, Recurve Solutions is a division of Bullseye Packaging Services devoted to supporting the growing to medium sized business.
We are capable of working with most project volumes.
Contact Eira now to see if your project qualifies: or 403-970-7155.