Thinking Inside the Box

John Weedon, Managing Director of the Weedon Group, considers how printing inside the box offers new potential for both online retailers and Retail Ready Packaging.

It’s time to start thinking inside the box! For nearly 150 years since the introduction of corrugated cardboard, the packaging industry has focused almost exclusively on the outside of the box.

When Henry Ford launched his first car on the market, it was available in any colour so long as it was black! But, just like cars, packaging manufacturing has come on in leaps and bounds since the early days when everything came in plain brown boxes. Over the years, retailers have embraced opportunities to promote their brands with ever more adventurous designs, and packaging manufacturers can now deliver graphics in glorious technicolour. But, until recently, the focus was still one-sided.

In the last year or so, however, there has been a major change. Packaging designers are now looking at what they can do with the inside of the box.

Driven by the surge in online shopping and the need to try to replicate some of the in-store shopping experience on the doorstep, eRetailers are looking to create the ‘Wow factor’ for their customers when they open their online purchases. eCommerce packaging is no longer simply a means of protecting a product in transit. It is widely recognised now that packaging can do a whole lot more.

Printing inside the box offers valuable opportunities for marketing. It can advertise products or reinforce a brand message – something to which online retailers, without a physical shop window, will need to pay more attention if they are to retain customers. With developments in digital printing technology there is scope too to personalise small runs of packaging for eCommerce retailers, for example, for marketing offers or competitions.

Cost has always been a big factor in decisions about printing the reverse of the packaging. Retailers have had to toss up whether the potential benefits are worth the cost of doubling the print requirement.

But the latest developments in print technology are now opening up a world of opportunity. For example the new six-colour HQPP (High Quality Post Print) Weipong flexo-printer, which we have recently installed at our Hednesford site, will print both sides of a box in one pass (four colours on one side, two on the reverse). Crucially this reduces significantly the cost of printing inside the box, and customers are being quick to see the implications.

Online retailers can use the inside of the packaging to create an exciting unboxing experience. Alternatively they could print convenient assembly instructions for their packers inside the box, or include installation instructions for the customer as part of the packaging, thereby saving the expense of printing and inserting a separate quick-start leaflet.

In-store retailers gain an additional chance to promote their brand identity on Retail Ready Packaging – as the carton is gradually emptied on-shelf, attractive branding is revealed. Printing inside the box on primary packaging can be an effective means of ensuring that retailers’ packaging – and thus their advertising – remains in the home long after the contents of the box have gone. How many 6-year-old football fans are going to let mum throw away the box their birthday cake arrived in if the inside of the box is printed with a pitch for table top football?

Another exciting development is the ability to apply a coating in place of one of the inks. As the packaging industry seeks to move away from plastic, the message is getting through that corrugated cardboard offers a flexible, environmentally-friendly substitute. A coating applied to the cardboard to preserve fresh produce or protect automotive components offers a greener and more cost-effective alternative to additional plastic packaging. The ability to add this coating on the inside of the box, in one pass, at the same time as the outside is being printed, increases speed to market and minimises cost.

As retailers look to maximise the impact they make on their customers, reduce the cost of their packaging and help safeguard the planet, we can expect printing inside the box to become a major trend going into 2023.

Plant Based Packaging

Weedon Group plant based packaging and displays

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