noissue custom food-safe paper by @macarondejayne

Food packaging does a lot of heavy lifting. It acts as a branding tool, protects its contents during shipping and use, and conveys important info like allergens and best before dates. That’s why it’s crucial to put time and energy into creating the perfect food packaging to suit your brand.

Whether you sell through local markets or commercially produce products to ship worldwide, packaging is critical. Custom packaging like branded coffee bags or packing tape for shipping can give your brand an edge. For Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) brands in particular, crafting the right packaging is essential, as there is no middle man between you and the customer to manage this aspect of production. The right packaging can even help you take leaps forward in your sustainability practices.

Ahead, we offer fourteen unique and inspiring ideas to light up your food packaging design, including real examples from brands that are doing it right.

How to create the best food packaging for your brand

After years of designing for various clients, we know that everyone’s needs are different. If you’re tackling the task yourself, there are some key questions that will inform your final product. For example: are you selling via eCommerce only or do you have a brick and mortar location as well? How fragile is your product? Is it – like many food products - sensitive to air or light?

When taking on your food packaging design, consider the following:

· Food packaging design and branding: Use every opportunity, from the shipping box to the jar label, to build brand affinity. If your product will be sold through retailers, ensure that it is designed to sit on a shelf or merchandising display and that the design will pop against competitors. If your business uses an online-only DTC model, packaging and shipping materials are critical branding assets that help establish a relationship with the customer.

· Food packaging supplies and materials: Choosing the right packaging materials for your food product means considering what is required to safely preserve its shelf life and protect it from breakage.

· Product information on food labels: Depending on where you manufacture and sell your food products, you will be subject to specific labelling laws. Food products tend to be heavily regulated and brands are required to display information like ingredients and country of origin. Ask yourself how you can incorporate these labels into your packaging in a way that doesn’t undermine your overall design or brand.

· Environmental impact of food packaging: Now more than ever, consumers are connecting with brands that put the planet first. If your food product was produced using sustainable ingredients and processes, why not carry your commitment to the planet all the way through to your packaging? Consider recycled, compostable, or reusable packaging options.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look at some best-in-class examples of food packaging. We’ve included some hard-won tips and resources to help you implement these  ideas to make your brand shine.

14 food packaging ideas to inspire your brand

1. Protective food packaging

Source: Lucky Saint

Shipping fragile items like flaky pastry or breakable glass can be nerve wracking. To ensure your products arrive safely, invest in packaging that will protect it. Consider custom solutions like this box from Lucky Saint non-alcoholic beer. The simple branded box contains an insert in the company’s vibrant cerulean to keep bottles from smashing.

Everyday Wine took a similar approach to protective packaging by using branded custom tape and “Fragile” stickers in their brand font to adorn the exterior of their boxes.

Source: Lucky Saint

💡 Tip: Protective packaging isn’t just functional, make it your own. Use customized tissue paper to fill packages or protect delicate food products.

2. Reusable food packaging

Source: AWSM Sauce

One of the most sustainable ways to approach packaging involves looking at its full lifecycle. Can your food product be packaged in a jar or other vessel your customer can reuse? AWSM Sauce took this concept a step further. Their product comes in a concentrated formula that produces less waste as well as being lighter and cheaper to ship. Customers buy the jar once and can refill it to their heart’s content. Not only is this sustainable, but it promotes an ongoing brand relationship with the potential to create a repeat customer.

💡 Tip: Consider how your vessel or packaging may serve other purposes in your customer’s life. Custom canvas totes are a high-value option consumers love to receive, as well as a great option for retailers after a reusable branded alternative to shipping fill.

custom totes are a wonderful way to let customers take your brand home with them

3. Custom stickers for food packaging

Source: Cutino Sauce Co.

Custom stickers are an economical solution for brands that are just starting out. Rather than investing in a suite of branded materials, stickers are versatile enough to appear on everything from product bottles to shipping boxes. Cutino Sauce Co. uses these versatile branded stickers by noissue.

💡 Tip: Custom stickers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and formats including sold by the roll or die cut.

4. QR-coded food packaging

Source: Kyoot Chocolate

Kyoot Chocolate rebranded its chocolate bar packaging to include QR codes. These codes link to a TapKit microsite where customers can learn more and engage with the brand. QR codes can help fill in the information gap, especially when your food packaging has limited real estate. It’s also a way to connect with customers directly, even if they purchase your product through a retail partner.

💡 Tip: Browse a number of QR-compatible products that can superpower your food packaging to help you achieve marketing goals.

5. Branded take-out packaging

If you operate your brand primarily from a retail setting, custom food packaging is critical to spread brand awareness and spark word-of-mouth referrals in your local community. Common Circus packages its takeout food in consistent branding, resonating from its coffee cups all the way to custom sandwich wrap and stickers.

☕ Read more: Explore ways to set your café apart from the competition.

6. Artistic food packaging

Source: Collective Arts Brewing

Partnering with artists or other brands is a great way to bring visibility to your products while giving back to your community. Collective Arts Brewing collaborates with different creators for each of its beer and spirit products, creating food packaging that stands out on shelves. The partnership is a win-win for artists who gain visibility and the brand that benefits from unique packaging.

OffLimits Cereal takes the same approach for special edition products or packaging drops, teaming up with well-known creators and offering the artist-design boxes for a limited time.

Source: OffLimits Cereal

💡 Tip: Tap into noissue’s Creative Community to find artists and designers that can work with you to develop a unique look for your food packaging.

7. Multi-purpose packaging

Source: Yumble

Packaging that doubles as a gift box or a meal tray grants it a second life and provides convenience to your customer. Yumble produces fresh, healthy, pre-portioned meals for kids that are conveniently packaged in containers that can be used for serving, too.

8. Biodegradable or compostable food packaging

Source: Seedlip

Compostable packaging offers a robust and sustainable way to bring your brand to the fore while minimizing environmental impact. For example, to protect their glass-bottled products, Seedlip took a unique approach to their packaging. Their gift boxes are made from mycelium (the root structure of mushrooms), which composts in rich soil after just 40 days.

The Vegan Dairy also invested in packaging that creates minimal impact. Their cheese products are wrapped in a plant-based “plastic” that’s home compostable.

Source: The Vegan Dairy

💡 Tip: Get creative! Biodegradable and compostable options are available across a variety of products from coffee pouches to take-out straws.

9. Limited edition or seasonal packaging

Source: Aloha

Limited edition or seasonal packaging is a tried-and-true marketing tactic for gift-giving holidays. Repackage existing flavours or introduce new ones with festive packaging. Aloha rotates seasonal flavours—like pumpkin spice for fall and chocolate mint for winter—through its product catalogue year round. This strategy allows the brand to run holiday-specific campaigns and promote its product as a gift idea.

🎄Read more: learn how to prep your products and packaging for holiday corporate giving.

10. Portioned or single use packaging

Source: Ora

Single-use packaging is ideal for brands that sell portioned products or want to extend the shelf life of natural ingredients. Ora offers its probiotic powder in individual packets, portioned in the right dose for customer convenience.

Happily, single-use packaging can be sustainable with the right materials. Compostable sachets are ideal for keeping your products fresh and keeping the earth healthy.

11. Recycled food packaging

Source: Pact Coffee

As consumers become increasingly attuned to their impact, they actively seek brands that have clear sustainability missions. Therefore, it’s important to walk the talk, right down to your food packaging. Aside from biodegradable or reusable options, consider recycled packaging like this kraft paper coffee bag from Pact Coffee.

💡 Tip: Try recycled options for your shipping materials too. Explore recycled paper mailers or recycled kraft boxes.

12. Clear food packaging

Source: Butter Baby

If your products are sold at a retail or food establishments, it may be important for customers to see through the packaging to understand what they’re buying. Clear glass bottles or cello sleeves allow customers to see the colour, texture, and consistency of your products for themselves.

Butter Baby uses plain cello sleeves with custom stickers to package their individual cookies, while Last Crumb’s cookie bags are translucent and custom branded.

Source: Last Crumb

🍪 Read more:  The cookie doesn’t always have to crumble. Find out the best way to ship cookies with branded packaging.

13. Subscription or bundle boxes for food brands

Source: Doisy & Dam

Doisy & Dam allow customers to receive monthly boxes of their chocolate through a subscription service. Brands can benefit from a subscription offering as it increases loyalty and recurring revenue. It’s also economical, as it eliminates the need for multiple box sizes and shipping rates.

💡 Tip: Purchase one size of custom gift box to fill each month and standardise your shipping options. Explore ways to represent your brand and build a story for your consumers each month.

14. Innovative food packaging

Source: Thelma's Treats

Some brands are a great fit for innovative food packaging ideas. Consider your audience and how you want to make your brand stand out when brainstorming ideas. For example, a cereal marketed to kids and their parents may have fun and educational games printed on the reverse of the box. Or a spirits brand may incorporate a shot glass into the bottle cap’s design.

Thelma’s Treats took a creative approach with its cookie boxes, designing them to look like cardboard ovens.

🍪 Read more: Step outside the box. Learn how custom boxes help customers remember your brand.

Wrapping it up

While food packaging has a functional role, it doesn’t have to be boring. Custom packaging is a game changer for DTC food brands looking to stand out in a busy landscape.

Branding every touchpoint creates a memorable experience that—alongside taste—keeps customers coming back. Beyond that, it allows you to build a story, reconnecting with your own brand in a way that drives the best possible outcomes.

Ideas bubbling up already? Explore the noissue custom packaging range to find ways you can bring them to life.