Read about the 15 most frequent packaging mistakes that I’ve seen as a lifelong veteran of the packaging industry.

Packaging Mistake 1:
Contacting the packaging company late in the game.

Why it’s a packaging mistake:

Not involving your packaging company early in the process is one of the most frequent and most enduring mistakes.

For example, marketing or graphic design departments may spend considerable time and money creating a packaging design that is actually problematic.

In some cases, the design simply isn’t functional:

  • Won’t protect the product during shipping.
  • Expects the material to behave in ways that are impossible, such as round corrugate.
  • Doesn’t allow for key components, such as bar codes, branding information, or tape covering the print.
  • Fails to meet U.S. packaging or labeling regulations.
  • Doesn’t meet specifications required by Amazon, Target, Walmart or others.

Other times, the packaging consumes additional resources:

  • Blows the budget or creates rework, because It’s costly to produce.
  • Calls for materials that will delay production.

Whether it’s a problem of function, cost, or materials, these mistakes result in unnecessary cost overruns.

Packaging best practice:

Bring your packaging company, your marketing team, and R&D to the same table as soon as you’re thinking about going to market.

Collaboration between the marketing team and structural designers is paramount to success.

Packaging Mistake 2:

Ordering boxes/packaging online.

Why it’s a packaging mistake:

It may seem convenient to simply order boxes online. However, without access to expert advice and a structural designer you may make costly mistakes:

  • Packages may get damaged without optimal interior cushioning.
  • Boxes may not be strong enough to maintain their integrity throughout shipment.
  • Branding elements may not look their best, depending on the chosen materials and printing method.
  • Packaging may be larger than necessary, so it’s not eco-friendly, efficient, or cost-effective.

Packaging best practice:

If you’re not a structural designer, you’ll want to work with one.

These packaging experts can help guide you toward optimal packaging, often resulting in saved time and better wholesale pricing.

At Wertheimer Box, our structural designers are extremely knowledgeable and talented. As account managers, we rely on our team’s combined experience to provide the best packaging solutions for our clients.

computer with ecommerce site and buyer using credit card indicating nationwide presence

Packaging Mistake 3:

Making unrealistic assumptions about today’s lead times and turnaround times.

Why it’s a packaging mistake:

Supply chain shortages have become commonplace in almost every area of the economy since the COVID-19 pandemic began. As a result, specific materials may hold up the manufacturing of your complete packaging solution. In turn, these delays can slow your ability to get your products to customers.

With the onset of the pandemic, the demand for corrugated packaging has never been higher.  However, at Wertheimer Box we’ve been able to source and manufacture the necessary corrugate we need to address industry shortages and minimize manufacturing lead times.

At the same time, the complete packaging solutions we offer often involve other types of packaging components. Some of these have become more difficult to source. For example, recently I’ve seen leads times as long as three to five months for chipboard, six weeks for corrugate with lithographic laminate labels, and three weeks for inside-and-out direct print on kraft corrugate boxes.

These turnaround times are much longer than those from pre-COVID levels.

Packaging best practice:

Plan ahead. Start early to meet deadlines.

Work with your packaging supplier to understand what needs to happen in order to get your corrugated shipping boxes, packaging components, and ultimately your products where they need to be, when they need to be there.

​Packaging Mistake 4:

Relying on the same old packaging.

Why it’s a packaging mistake:

By retaining outdated packaging solutions, you may be missing better opportunities. For example, new materials may save you time and money.

This is one advantage of working with  seasoned packaging professionals. We can propose reasonable packaging alternatives.

Packaging best practice:

Be open to suggestions of alternative, yet comparable, packaging and treatments that may get your products to market faster and/or at a reduced cost.

Packaging Mistake 5:

Working with an inexperienced packaging team.

Why it’s a packaging mistake:

A sales rep or company that has a long resume will be able to assist you in ways that others cannot.

For example, Wertheimer Box has been in the Chicago area for 82 years. Besides manufacturing our own corrugated boxes and packaging and retail displays, we’ve built long-term relationships, collaborating with other packaging companies. To provide complete packaging solutions, we work closely with numerous suppliers. These include those that make chipboard, rigid packaging, tubes, foam, packaging supplies (e.g., tape, films, bubble wrap), perishable shipping components for food, and others.

Similarly, an experienced rep like myself is able to come up with alternatives. For example, she can often access materials that are difficult to get in the current supply chain environment.

Packaging best practice:

Work with an established packaging company team that wants your product to succeed as much as you do.

These companies will have the experts and experience you need to package and ship your products successfully.

unhappy end-user opening package

Packaging Mistake 6:

Not considering the end-user.

Why it’s a packaging mistake:

If you don’t consider your end-user, you’re likely to hit snags:

  • For retail or ecommerce, your product may not be able to hit the shelves. For instance, you may need to understand the packaging requirements of Walmart, Amazon or Target.
  • Package is damaged, hard to open, or printed with misinformation.

These types of mistakes can be costly. What’s worse, they may even result in the failure to sell even the best products.

Packaging best practice:

Understand user requirements throughout the selling process.

For instance, ask yourself, “What’s the point of this package?”

  • At a minimum, how will you ensure the product ships safely?
  • What do you want the end-user experience to look like? Is the product a gift? Will the end-user need instructions or other key information?
  • Do you need to enhance the perceived value of the product? For example, do you need a luxurious finished look? Die cuts?
  • Do you need to deter thieves from stealing boxes off porches—yet create a high-end experience on the inside of the packaging?
  • Does it need to ship overseas? Do you understand these requirements?
  • Will some assembly be necessary after delivery? Is the labor available to make this happen?
Wertheimer Box supervisor examining a custom printed corrugated box

​Packaging Mistake 7:

Missing out on branding opportunities.

Why it’s a packaging mistake:

The three main functions of packaging are protection, containment, and communication.

If you’re only containing and protecting your products, you’re missing out on the opportunity to communicate about your company and your brand. Branding and messaging can differentiate your brand from that of competitors.

Research indicates that the right packaging and messages can increase impulse buying—especially if the product is lower priced and lower risk.

Additionally, an attractive brand with a creative logo and messaging can influence purchasing behavior. An established brand can result in an influx of sales and more demand for your product.

Packaging best practice:

Give your brand the recognition it deserves and showcase your products.

To achieve this goal, use attractive and consistent branding colors, fonts, and graphics to promote your brand. Also, ensure that the look and feel of your brand reflects its value. Learn more about packaging in marketing.

Packaging Mistake 8:

Not thinking about the impact on the environment.

Why it’s a packaging mistake:

According to research, 64% of consumers are belief-driven buyers. They care about societal issues and feel good about purchasing brands that care about these topics, such as climate change.

In a separate study, nearly 70% of consumers considered sustainability at least somewhat important.

Wertheimer Box has been certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative since 2008. All of our corrugated board is made with SFI program participant corrugated board. Likewise, 100% of our corrugated trimmings are recycled.

This isn’t just a matter of B2C purchases either. Keep in mind that the purchasing agents, product engineers, marketing directors, and company owners are also consumers. What’s more, they are making sustainable packaging decisions.  In fact, studies show that sustainable packaging sales have grown nearly 20% since 2014.

Overall, 78% of corrugated boxes are recycled. In contrast, only 9% of plastics are recycled according to a 2021 Forbes packaging article. The article further noted that 40% of the global use of plastics is for packaging itself.

Packaging best practice:

Use an eco-friendly packaging supplier, such as Wertheimer Box, and consider these eco-friendly practices:

  • Minimize or eliminate the use of foam, plastics, and other components that are not biodegradable.
  • Ship items in smaller packages, when able.
  • Consider POP displays that are also shippers.
  • On your packaging, remind users to recycle.
  • Boast about your eco-friendly practices.
globe of the earth in foam packaging

Packaging Mistake 9:

Not asking for a packaging review.

Why it’s a packaging mistake:

A packaging review determines if you have the correct size, proper board grade, best quality artwork, and the right cost for your product packaging and shipping materials. It can help optimize your spending and ensure compliance requirements.

Moreover, most packaging reviews, such as those at Wertheimer Box Corp., are free or performed at a minimal cost.

The review may result in consolidated packaging, improved compliance, and ultimately cost-savings.

Packaging best practice:

Submit your packaging for a review—especially if you’re adding product lines, launching a new product, or your packaging is old and tired.

Packaging Mistake 10:

Not understanding how artwork will display.

Why it’s a packaging mistake:

Your entire packaging appearance may not be what you intended. For example:

  • Words may be upside down or misspelled.
  • Wrong panel of the box is printed (e.g., the bottom).
  • Colors may be misaligned.
  • Labels may be covered by tape.

Packaging best practice:

Always review your print card. Even better, get a proof or mockup.

bad packaging design for fragile product

​Packaging Mistake 11:

Forgetting about function.

Why it’s a packaging mistake:

If your packaging is too flimsy, it may collapse somewhere in the supply chain.

Consider the abuse your package may sustain on its journey to your customer. For example, the package will likely need to be stacked on pallets and on shelves. It even may be tossed unceremoniously into a truck, plane, or train—or all three.

Packaging best practice:

Don’t skimp on durability, and test your packaging.

This is why we rely on structural designers who understand what’s necessary for different packaging scenarios.

Furthermore, ship your product to your packaging company to see what it looks like when it arrives. Check out your products and POP displays in several stores. Follow best practices for successful POP displays and avoid common mistake for creating POP displays.

Packaging Mistake 12:

Overcomplicating packaging.

Why it’s a packaging mistake:

Overcomplicated packaging may frustrate end-users who have to open the package.

What’s more, too much packaging is a wasteful practice—both from an eco-friendly and a budget consideration.

Furthermore, your company simply may look foolish as outlined in these 109 wasteful packaging solutions.

Packaging best practice:

Keep your packaging solutions simple.

Use only the types and amounts of packaging necessary to protect and contain the product and meet standards.

hazardous dangerous poisonous and other danger symbols

Packaging ​Mistake 13:

Not considering product safety.

Why it’s a packaging mistake:

To avoid public relations and legal troubles, you’ll want to ensure that your company has done everything it can to keep people safe.

In fact, many packaging issues are related to labels, graphics, the environment, and safety.

To illustrate, if your product is flammable or contains harmful chemicals, it needs to be labeled correctly. What’s more, some packaging (such as food packaging) must meet specific requirements of toxicologists and food scientists.

Additionally, your packaging must not contaminate the food. Important, food packaging must meet detailed FDA standards.

Packaging best practice:

Rely on a packaging supplier that is familiar with U.S. requirements for food packaging and other regulated substances.

At Wertheimer Box, we create packaging for a plethora of shelf-stored, refrigerated, and frozen foods. Our experience enables us to help guide food processors and manufacturers.

Packaging Mistake 14:

Not wanting to pay for testing.

Why it’s a packaging mistake:

For hazardous materials, we recommend third-party testing facilities to ensure that the packaging is right for the product. These facilities can certify that government standards are met. In turn, this will help safeguard products, the supply chain, and the end-user.

Third-party testing can also be used to ensure that your products or displays are intact and arrive safely.

Packaging best practice:

Test your products when required by law or when you have a lot riding on the product’s successful delivery.

If your products are hazardous, we require hazardous testing before we will manufacture your packaging. If your products are fragile, we recommend ISTA testing.

You may also choose testing simply to have peace of mind that all your product development efforts haven’t been in vain.

Packaging Mistake 15:

Not relying on your packaging vendor.

Why it’s a packaging mistake:

Submitting specifications (specs) without the advice of your packaging vendor can result in numerous issues.

  • You may inadvertently miss an important detail that an experienced account manager or structural designer could easily identify.
  • Your packaging may not maintain its integrity during its supply chain journey.
  • The design may be problematic or not meet important specifications.
  • Newer or less expensive materials may be available.
  • More sustainable materials may be an option.

Packaging best practice:

Get an entire team of packaging experts by consulting with your vendor and availing yourself of the company’s expertise.


Packaging mistakes can be costly, create rework and delays, and even break the law. Rather than correcting mistakes, avoid them. Rely on an experienced packaging supplier who understands the entire packaging landscape.

Candy Wertheimer

Candy Wertheimer is Account Manager – Creative Solutions at Wertheimer Box Corp. where she was raised in the corrugated industry.

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