John Edmonds, Freightos

Most importers don’t consider packaging when negotiating a purchase agreement as standard factory packaging is usually quite suitable. However, it pays to do some research before hammering out a deal. If you’re looking at making several shipments, the savings you make with reduced freight costs may far outweigh the upfront costs of modifying shipment packing or product packaging. This guide covers some aspects of packaging you may want to consider.


Packaging For Protection

The job of your packaging is to protect your shipment. Fragile shipments should be double-boxed, which not only adds an extra layer of cushion from rugged handling but also reduces the chances of the product moving when the box is jostled. Wrapping the first box with bubble wrap and peanuts will secure it even further, but watch out, some fulfillment centers, like Amazon FBA warehouses, won’t let you use packing peanuts.

Unless you have a very large shipment, your goods will be consolidated with other shipments in a container for ocean freight, or be with other air freight shipments in the hold for air freight. With all those shipments huddled together, it’s easy for packages to get mixed up at unloading. So make sure that your packages are clearly marked with carton count, gross weight, net weight, country of origin, and tracking labels (like FBA shipment labels). If you are shipping something attractive to thieves, you should remove any brand identification and any other telltale labeling.


Packaging For Air Freight

There isn’t much space in a plane’s hold, so air freight costs are based on volume more than weight. And that means that your goal should be to reduce gaps between packaged products inside the carton, and between other cartons.

Expert Tip

Here are some ways you can reduce volume and air freight costs:

  • Consider palletizing in the US. Pallets take up a lot of costly room.
  • If your cartons are light, have them packed together wherever possible, and use non-bulging, lightweight but strong packing materials.
  • Check that packaging your supplier is recommending is using the smallest possible box size. If not, use a dimensional weight calculator to see how much extra you may be paying for the larger box. The Shipping Basics guide has more on dimensional weight. Then you’ll know whether you should be insisting on a smaller box.


Packaging For Ocean Freight

Cargo ships have a lot more space than an airplane, but poor weight distribution can make container ships buckle or lurch. That’s why weight more than volume drives ocean freight costs, which lets you be more generous with packaging material.

Remember though to stick with standard sized boxes. They fit nicely on pallets. Standardization is what made it possible for shipments to smoothly move from factory floors onto trucks, and onto ships.

There’s an extra cost with using pallets if you are importing from China. As for other some other export and import countries, the wood will need special treatment and a fumigation certificate before it can make it into the US.


Product Packaging

Product packaging may trap wasted space that can significantly increase freight costs. But changing product packaging will be more difficult for your supplier than changing shipment packaging, likely requiring changes to the machinery and special production runs. Expect that your supplier may not initially be receptive, but if your product sells well, do the math to see how soon you would recoup any set-up costs.

Expert Tip

If you are concerned about packing products closer together or using less packaging might increase the risk of damage, or that changing product packaging will hurt sales, get in touch with a local packaging company. See what creative ideas to cut freight costs, keep the shipment safe in transit, and have them looking great to buy.


Amazon FBA Packaging

Amazon FBA’s special packaging requirements are covered in the Amazon Shipping & Receiving Requirements guide.



  • Avoid extra packaging, it’s an unnecessarily add cost, especially for air freight, but double-box fragile products.
  • Check that your supplier is using the smallest, standard box size, to optimize how they fit on a pallet.
  • Carefully label shipments because smaller shipments often get mixed up at consolidation and deconsolidation.
  • For fast moving stock, consider improving product packaging to reduce freight costs.

    Further Reading

  1. Packaging: Think Outside (And Inside) The Box
  2. Is Your Cargo Flightworthy?

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