Packaging & Labelling

Packaging is the container or wrapper for any food or beverage product. Labelling is part of the packaging with printed material to appear on the package. The way you present and package your food or beverage product can contribute significantly to the success of your business.


Think of your packaging not only as the physical container designed to hold and transport your product, but also as a marketing tool. Effective packaging helps sell your product without you being there, by the way it looks (by attracting attention), by describing the actual product and making the product easily accessible. Strongly branded and well-designed packaging can help in the instant recognition of the product.


  • can enable you to increase your selling price – premium packaging is perceived as a sign of premium quality
  • is part of your food safety program – when buying food we look for packaging that is still sealed as a sign of freshness
  • is part of your product development process  – it is important to trial different packaging in different shapes, sizes and materials to assess how this meets consumers’ needs
  • is an important sales tool for your retail customers – you may need to change your packaging and labelling to meet their needs in order to be stocked in their stores
  • can change the market for your product – clever redesign can take a product into a whole new market

Environmental awareness and packaging

As the management of our environment grows in our awareness and that of consumers, it is important to recognise the environmental impact of the disposal of packaging and there are now agreements to help you implement recognised best practice in this area.

Industry in Australia and New Zealand, in conjunction with the national government and some local governments, have developed a self-regulatory agreement, in an effort to minimize the environmental impacts of consumer packaging waste and production waste. This is known as the Australian Packaging Covenant and is administered by the Federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Waste, Population and Communities.  It is based on the principles of shared responsibility through product stewardship and applies throughout the packaging chain – from raw material suppliers to retailers, and the ultimate disposal of waste packaging.

The Australian Department of Environment, Sustainability, Waste, Population and Communities provides information on waste management for businesses and communities through the National Waste Policy.

Industry-led standards

The food industry also heavily supports standards of best practice for sustainability beyond issues of packaging.  Research shows more than a third of Australians claimed to have actively sought products with more environmentally friendly packaging and the number of consumers now evaluating their product purchases for sustainable benefits, including use of recycled materials in packaging, ease of recycling, sustainably-sourced ingredients (for example palm oil) and the use of environmentally friendly inks in printing is growing. More recent research shows the majority of Australians want to choose products with these benefits and also include social and community benefits in their decision-making. (Many also include humane animal treatment with sustainability benefits, seeking out either products not tested on animals or those using ingredients derived from suppliers practising ethical animal husbandry methods.)

Although Australia does not yet have a full eco-labelling system in place, some existing labelling schemes provide environmental information. Examples of these are the energy labels used on appliances, the labelling of detergent phosphate content and the statement of recycled contents on packaging and products.

Prominently displayed recycle symbols and claims regarding the percentage of recycled material used in packaging or the use of environmentally-friendly printing are increasingly seen on many products aimed at sustainability-focussed consumers.

For more on sustainability as a business management issue, visit Environmental Sustainability.

Product labelling

The labelling on your products is required to fulfil several functions:

  • identifies the product (through name/brand)
  • positions the product in the consumers mind
  • describe the product
  • promote the product through eye-catching and distinctive design
  • provides information about the ingredients, nutritional information, allergy warnings and other information required by law

Currently, the following information is required by law to be included on labels for any food or beverage product. This includes:

  • name of the food
  • premises where the food was packed or prepared
  • lot (or batch) number
  • name of the business
  • business address (this cannot be a PO Box number)
  • mandatory warnings and advisory information
  • ingredient labelling
  • date mark (‘best before’ date)
  • health and safety advice
  • nutritional information panel
  • percentage  of characterising  ingredient/s
  • country of origin
  • net weight

Getting the labelling right

Most people use the services of a graphic designer  to design packaging. If you are just starting out, ask your designer to include various samples of packaging and labelling in the development of your branding.

Your thinking on packaging should be incorporated in a clear, simple brief for the designer and can also be part of a wider brief for your brand. The packaging design brief should include:

  • what the package should be or do for the product – is it primarily to protect the product or is it part of a sales strategy?
  • do you want people to be able to heat the product in the microwave in the packaging?
  • is the packaging a form of preservation (e.g. keeps the product fresh)?
  • does it need to be tamper-proof for safety reasons or resealable for the convenience of the consumer?
  • specific elements of the package—size, shape, materials, colour, text and brand mark. These decisions will also be affected by your marketing plan  (in terms of size of product and pricing factors) and branding . Food technology expertise will also ensure you comply with the legal requirements.

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