What are the advantages and disadvantages of food packaging materials?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of food packaging?

Food packaging is the enclosing of food to protect it from damage, spoilage, contamination, pest attack, and tempering during transport, storage, and retail sale. When considering the package, there is various information labeled like the amount of the content, ingredients, nutrient content, shelf life, and cooking instructions. If the device or container performs one or more of these functions, it considers as a package. Also, there are both advantages and disadvantages of these materials. What are the advantages and disadvantages of food packaging materials? Let’s discuss it one by one.

When considering packaging materials, there are four basic functions that packaging materials have. Those are,

  • Protection – Protect food from deterioration or spoilage due to physical, chemical, or biological damage
  • Communication – Information or any special instructions
  • Convenience – Ease of access, product visibility, handling, and disposal
  • Containment – Hold the content and keep them secure until use

The quality of packaged food is directly related to the attributes of food and packaging materials. When considering packaging, several possibilities have been reported for the interaction between foods and packaging materials. Those are,

  • Migration of volatile and non-volatile compounds from packaging materials to the food. This means diffusion.
  • Sorption of components from the food or from the environment into the packaging material. This depends upon the type of interface between the food and the packaging. As an example, the sorption of fatty matter, pigments, and vitamins into the packaging.
  • Permeation of volatile compounds from the food through the packaging. Examples are flavors and water vapor.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of food packaging materials? When considering packaging, there are 3 levels of packaging. Those are primary packaging, secondary packaging, and tertiary packaging.

Primary packaging

This is the level that the packaging is in direct contact with the product. The main purpose of primary packaging is to preserve/protect content and inform the consumer.

Secondary packaging

This is another level of protection that commonly use for protection, bundling, and marketing purposes. Often combines multiple items together, such as the box that holds multiple cans of soda together in one convenient pack.

Tertiary packaging

Tertiary packaging facilitates the protection, handling, and transportation of a series of sales units or secondary packaging in order to group everything into unit loads during transit. Usually, consumers rarely see this packaging.

Types of packaging materials

The major categories of materials used for the packaging of food are glass, metals, paper and paperboard, and plastics. There are many multilayered packaging materials containing either layers of different plastics or combinations of plastics with paper/boards and metal. Now let’s talk about the facts on the main topic of “what are the advantages and disadvantages of food packaging materials?”

Paper and paperboards

Paper and paperboard are sheet materials produced from an interlaced network of cellulose fibers derived from wood by using sulfate and sulfite. The fibers are then pulped, bleached, and treated with chemicals to produce the paper product. Paper use for temporary food containment and protection due to its high permeability and inability to be sealed with heat. Also, waxes, resins, and lacquers use as coatings and laminates to enhance the paper’s protective and functional properties. There are various types of papers such as Kraft paper, greaseproof, and parchment paper depending on the method of production and packaging purpose.


Glass is the most reliable and least toxic material for packaging foods and drinks. There are many advantages of glass packaging such as imperviousness, inertness, strength, hygiene, quality color, design, decoration potential, transparency, microwave ability, and heat treatability. Also, there are some disadvantages like being brittle, heavy, and non-degradable.


These are the most common and most wide-ranging materials used for food packaging. The convenience and widespread use of plastic is owed to its low cost, ease of processability, formability, chemical resistance, lightweight, and a variety of physical properties. Also, there is some limitation of using plastic because of its permeability to gas, vapor, and light. When considering plastic, there are two main categories as thermosets and thermoplastics.


  • Irrevocably solidify upon heat and are non-reformable
  • Makes them unsuitable for food packaging


  • Soften when heated and are able to retain their initial conditions at room temperature
  • This renders them perfect for food packaging
  • Recyclable via melting, reproduction & reuse as new products

Also, there are various types of plastics when considering this material. Those are polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). These are also, important when considering the topic of “what are the advantages and disadvantages of food packaging materials?”


  • This is the simplest, most versatile, and most inexpensive plastic.
  • Synthesized by polymerization of ethylene.
  • According to the density, polyethylene can classify into very low-density polyethylene (VLDPE), low-density polyethylene (LDPE), medium-density polyethylene (MDPE), and high-density polyethylene (HDPE).
  • However, LDPE and HDPE are the most common packaging forms in food packaging.

Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)

  • Use in applications where heat sealing is necessary. 
  • LDPE shows excellent cold resistance (up to −70°C), and therefore it uses in frozen – food packaging.

 High-density polyethylene (HDPE)

  • HDPE is stiff, strong, tough, and resistant to chemicals, moisture, and gas. Also, easy to process, and easy to form.
  • HDPE is a harder plastic and has a higher melting point than LDPE.


  • It is harder, denser, and more transparent than polyethylene.
  • Has good resistance to chemicals and is effective at barring water vapor.
  • The various forms of polypropylene have different melting points and hardnesses.
  • Its high melting temperature (160°C) makes it suitable for applications where thermal resistance is required, such as hot-filled and microwavable packaging.
  • Popular uses include yogurt containers and margarine tubs.

Polyethylene terephthalate

  • This is a thermoplastic polyester that synthesizes by the condensation of terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol.
  • Almost unbreakable, good barrier to gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide) and moisture. So, food products store in PET have a long shelf–life, good resistance to heat, oils, solvents, and acids but not to bases.
  • Polyethylene terephthalate is the packaging material of the first choice for beverages and mineral waters.
  • The main reasons for its popularity are its glass-like transparency, gas barrier properties that allow retention of carbonation, lightweight, and shatter resistance. 

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

  • PVC can obtain by radical polymerization or chain polymerization from vinyl chloride monomer.
  • This is heavy, stiff and ductile, and is a strong, transparent material.
  • It has excellent resistance to chemicals (acids and bases), grease, and oil. Also, there is good flow characteristics and stable electrical properties.


Metals are the most versatile of all forms of packaging. They offer a combination of excellent physical protection and barrier properties, formability, decorative potential, and recyclability. Metal containers are vacuum-sealed and thermally sterilized under low oxygen pressure. The decomposition of nutrients is kept to a minimum in metal containers since metals are a perfect barrier to oxygen, light, and moisture. The major limitations of metal containers are cost, the weight of the containers, and the fact that they are difficult to crush. Aluminum and steel are the metals that are most predominantly used in food packaging.

When considering the above fats under the topic of “what are the advantages and disadvantages of food packaging materials?” there is valuable information on food packaging material, packaging levels, and functions of packaging. These are very important facts when considering the packaging industry. Also, there are various food packaging methods. You can gather information mainly about food packaging materials through this article and stay with us to know more facts in the food industry. Also, consider following us on Instagram and Facebook.  

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