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The Difference Between Rigid and Flexible Packaging

Rigid vs. Flexible Packaging

Rigid vs Flexible Packaging

The Difference Between Rigid and Flexible Packaging

Rigid and flexible packaging solutions are popular ways of protecting a range of goods in transit, storage, and at home. They share similarities in that they are both used to provide a protective barrier between products and the user.

However, despite their similarities, the two types of packaging are often used for different products due to their unique properties and benefits.

So, what is rigid and flexible packaging – and how do they differ?

What is Rigid Packaging?

Rigid packaging refers to the strong and durable materials used to contain various products. This includes a range of packaging designed to avoid bending, curving, snapping, or breaking – such as cardboard, glass, metal, and hard plastics.

Rigid Packaging

This type of packaging is typically used with fragile products or those that need to maintain their integrity without being manipulated or directly handled.

Rigid containers include cardboard cereal boxes, glass condiment jars, metal cans, and plastic water bottles. 

What is Flexible Packaging?

Flexible Packaging

The Pros and Cons of Rigid and Flexible Packaging

Each packaging type offers unique benefits and disadvantages that may discourage certain packaging providers or consumers.

Here, we look at the pros and cons of rigid and flexible packaging.

Pros and Cons

Advantages of Rigid Packaging

Some of the critical advantages of rigid packaging include:

Solid and Durable – rigid packaging is designed to be handled and withstand moderate impact without breaking. This packaging keeps contents intact and maintains integrity.

Providing Protection – rigid containers protect against heat, light, odor, and more.

A Luxury Finish – many forms of rigid packaging provide a luxury container – for example, glass perfume bottles and food jars.

Disadvantages of Rigid Packaging

The cons of rigid packaging include:

Demand Space – compared with flexible packaging, rigid containers often demand more space and can take up more room on shelves and in cupboards.

More significant Shipping Costs – due to its often more extensive and heavier form, rigid packaging demands higher shipping fees than flexible alternatives.

Less Cost-effective – due to the nature of the materials used to form rigid packaging, it is also less cost-effective than flexible packaging types.

Advantages of Flexible Packaging

Below are some of the critical benefits of flexible packaging:

Space-saving and Lightweight – flexible packaging is typically thinner, more compact, and lighter than rigid packaging, saving on space and hassle in storage and on the move.

Cost-effective – due to the materials used – and their lightweight, space-saving nature – flexible packaging is more cost-effective compared with rigid alternatives.

More Eco-friendly – flexible packaging takes up less space in a landfill than rigid containers.

Marketing Potential – flexible packaging materials are often easier to customize with branded printing.

Disadvantages of Flexible Packaging

However, there are also some potential disadvantages to flexible packaging:

Less Protection – due to its thinner and less robust materials, flexible packaging provides less protection against puncture, heat, light, odor, and more.

Potential to Impact Flavor – some flexible packaging containers may influence the flavor of food or liquid contents.

Examples of Rigid and Flexible Packaging – What Are They Used For?

Rigid and flexible packaging are both commonly used to protect a range of items. However, they are often chosen for different products due to their unique benefits and content needs.

Rigid Packaging

Rigid packaging is designed to be protective and withstand potential impact without breaking or compromising integrity.

For this reason, rigid containers are typically used to store products that require special protection against damage, heat, light, odors, and more.

Some common examples of rigid packaging include:

Cardboard boxes used for cereal and other snacks

Glass jars are used for jellies, sauces, condiments, and produce

Glass bottles are used for fragrances and other beauty products

Plastic bottles used for water and other liquids

Plastic pots used for yogurts and other snacks

Plastic tubs used for powders

Metal tins used for long-lasting consumables

Metal cans used for deodorant and other hygiene products

Flexible Packaging

Flexible packaging provides lightweight and compact protection for a range of items – often those that are single-use or do not require re-sealing.

Other examples of flexible packaging include secondary packaging products like stretch wrap, which combine multiple products and keep them safe in transit or storage.

Common examples of flexible packaging include:

Plastic bags used for chips and other snacks

Plastic pouches used for confectionary

Bubble wraps used to protect fragile items

Paper bags used to protect baked goods and other fresh foods

Foil packaging is used to keep coffee fresh

Heat shrink film is used to protect consumables, DVDs, gadgets, and more

Stretch wrap used to protect pallets

Rigid vs. Flexible Packaging in the Food Industry

Rigid and flexible packaging solutions are regularly used to protect and preserve food products and consumables.

Rigid packaging provides robust protection and sturdiness for products often handled on the move.

Similarly, flexible packaging products may be used as a secondary packaging solution, providing added protection for products that need to stay cool and dry, such as cereal boxes.

Below is an example of how Coco Krispies uses rigid packaging to store its cereal, protecting the product against light, heat and crushing.

Cocopops Rigid

Flexible packaging is also commonly used to seal food products and keep them fresh – often adding a thin protective layer between the product and the consumer, for example, a snack bar wrapper or pizza shrink film.

Here, we see how Coco Pops also uses flexible flow packaging to keep its snack bars fresh and hygienic until its ready for consumption.

Coco pops flexible

In some cases, food products may be protected by rigid and flexible packaging – think of a frozen pizza wrapped in heat shrink film and then placed inside a cardboard box.

The Environmental Impact

Both rigid and flexible packaging represent sustainable solutions. Here, we take a look at the eco credentials of each type of packaging:

Rigid Packaging

Widely recycled – most rigid packaging materials are recyclable, including glass, plastic, and cardboard.

Protective packaging reduces product waste by protecting contents against heat, light, odor, and more damage.

Flexible Packaging

Lightweight and compact – meaning products take up less space in transport and landfill, drastically reducing emissions.

Less energy to manufacture – due to fewer materials needed to package each product.

Reduce waste – by extending the shelf-life of a range of consumable products.

Rigid vs. Flexible Packaging at a Glance…

Rigid vs. Flexible Packaging
  Rigid Packaging  Flexible Packaging

Strong and durable

Does not break or bend


A thin layer of protection

Common examples:

Cardboard boxes

Glass jars

Plastic bottles

Plastic pouches

Heat shrink wrap

Stretch film


Durable protection

Luxury finish

Lightweight and compact


Marketing potential


Requires more space

Less cost-effective

Less protection
Sustainability credentials:

Widely recycled

Protects against waste

Requires less space in transport and landfill

Less energy to manufacture

Extends shelf-life to reduce waste

Which Type of Packaging Do I Need?

The packaging solution you need will depend on your products and project needs.

Rigid packaging containers are typically used to secure fragile items or those that need added protection against light, heat, odors, and more. However, rigid containers are often larger and heavier than flexible alternatives, meaning they are not ideal where space is at a premium.

Flexible packaging provides a convenient and thin layer of protection over items while remaining compact. It is typically designed to keep single-use products – that don’t require re-sealing – fresh while providing a protective barrier against human touch.

US Packaging &Wrapping is a packaging expert, and our knowledgeable team is here to chat you through your needs. For more information on protecting your goods from the warehouse to the home, contact our team today or view our extensive range of packaging solutions.


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