How To Package Your Products For Retail

Whether you’re making the transition from selling at farmers market or diving straight in to the retail world, making sure your food package is ready for retail is an important step.

When you’re getting ready to create your new food package there are a few important areas to consider: FDA compliance, creating UPCs for your products, and overall packaging design.

Here’s a quick guide to get started on your retail package journey!

Retail-ready packaging background

Before you can begin to design your retail package, it’s a good idea to have an understanding of retail-ready packaging (RRP). RRP (or shelf ready packaging) is food packaging that has been optimized to provide easy shelf placement in stores and designed for maximum sales.

RRP is meant to make it easy for stores to move products from shipping case to shelf.

According to the Institute of Grocery Distribution (an organization developed in the United Kingdom), all RRP should fit the following criteria:

● Easy to identify-products should be easy for store employees to locate on the shelf or in the back of the store
 ●Easy to open-shipping cases should be easy to open
 ●Easy to merchandise-products should be designed to fit optimally on the shelf and should be easy to replenish when shelf stock is low
 ●Easy to shop-consumers should be able to identify the product type and brand quickly
 ●Easily disposable-packaging should contain the minimal amount of recyclable material possible

Packaging rundown

Traditionally, packaging for consumer goods fits into three types, primary, secondary, and tertiary.

Primary packaging is the packaging that comes into direct contact with the product and is the package the consumer sees and purchases. If you are selling products like pasta sauce or jams, the individual glass jars would be the primary package.

Secondary packaging refers to the cases or other types of receptacles that are used to hold multiple units of a product (such as a box that contains 12 jars of pasta sauce).

Tertiary packaging is the largest packaging type and would include the packaging that was shipped to the store, in most cases pallets and shrink wrap.

Now that you have a bit more of an understanding of how retail stores view packaging let’s look at what goes into your product package.

FDA Compliant

The FDA requires five key elements on a food packaging label: a statement of identity, the net weight of the product, the address of the manufacturer, nutrition facts, and the ingredients list. These are found on the principal display panel and information panel.

Principal Display Panel (PDP)

This is the part of the food package that the consumer is most likely to see first (this will usually be the front of the package). PDPs are required to display the following content:

Statement of identity
The name of the product. The statement of identity does not include brand names or logos and should be prominent and easy to identify.

Net weight
The total weight or quantity of the food, excluding any wrapping or container. If you are using measurements of weight, it must be listed as both US and metric values.

Information Panel

This panel is placed directly to the right of the PDP. In cases where that’s not possible (because of the shape of the package, flaps, folds, etc.) the information panel is required to be placed on the next available panel immediately to the right.

The information panel is required to contain:

Name and address of the manufacturer, distributor, or packer
If the product was not manufactured by the brand or name listed on the package, then the label must include the connection to the product (such as “distributed by _____” or “manufactured for _____”).

If the food was manufactured, packed, or distributed at a location that is not the primary place of business, then the place of business can be listed as the address instead.

According to the FDA, ingredients should be listed in order of amount used from greatest to least. So for example if you were selling bags of tortilla chips your ingredient list might look something like:

Organic yellow corn, organic white corn, sunflower oil, salt

If you are using an ingredient in your recipe that contains two or more ingredients (such as chocolate chips in chocolate chip cookies), you have two options. You have the choice of listing the component ingredients as main ingredients (and put them in the appropriate order according to the amount used), or you can list them as sub-ingredients. Sub-ingredients would look like:

Chocolate chips (sugar, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, soy lecithin, vanilla)

However, an ingredient does not have to be listed as a sub-ingredient if it was also listed as a main ingredient (if you already listed sugar for cookies, you don’t have to include it again under chocolate chips).

Nutrition Facts
The nutrition facts must be included on the information panel. According to the FDA changes that took effect in 2016, companies may use the simplified format on the label.

The simplified format is allowed if seven or more of the following nutrients are present in insignificant amounts (an amount that is equal to zero on a nutrition panel):

Calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugars, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron.

If the simplified format is used, it must include the five core nutrients no matter how much of each is present: calories, total fat, sodium, total carbohydrates, and protein.

The nutrition aspect of the information panel is incredibly important (and contains a lot of information!), so for a more detailed understanding check out the FDA label formats and the FDA labeling and nutrition information.


Allergens are required to be listed on the information panel if used in the recipe. The eight major allergens that must be listed are eggs, milk, fish (specific species), crustacean shellfish (specific species), soybeans, wheat, peanuts, and tree nuts (specific nut).

The allergens must be listed immediately after the ingredients (or adjacent to) on the information panel.

Remember, having an FDA compliant label on your food product is a must if you are hoping to sell it in retail stores. The above information was just a quick rundown of what the FDA requires, so for a more detailed overview check out the FDA website.


UPC (Universal Product Code) is a barcode included on the packaging of products that allows items to be tracked.

When stores scan the UPC at checkout, the cash register connects to the store’s point of sale computer to determine the price of the product. Using UPCs allows different stores to name their own prices for products.

Getting a UPC for your product is a relatively straightforward process.

In the US, UPCs are distributed by GS1 US, a nonprofit organization that is responsible for managing standards for business communication.

1. The first step is to apply for a GS1 Company Prefix at the GS1 website. This prefix is unique to your company and identifies you as the manufacturer of your products. The prefix is listed on the UPC as the first 6–10 characters and is consistent between any products you manufacture.

Pricing for the GS1 US depends on the number of items that will need a barcode. There is an initial fee for signing up, and an annual fee after that.

Information from GS1 US. Correct as of 8/27/18

2. After you receive your prefix, you can then begin to create product numbers for each product you will be selling. Depending on the length of your company prefix, the product number will be between 1–5 numbers (the total length of your UPC number must be 11 digits).

If you are selling different sizes of the same product (8 oz. vs. 16 oz., individual packs vs. multi-packs), each size must have a unique product number


3. Once you have your UPC created, it’s time to get your barcode! If you are designing your package, you will receive a digital copy of the barcode that can be incorporated into the design. If you’ve finished your packaging, you can print up individual barcode labels to apply to each product.

Packaging Design

Once you have the FDA label and the UPC out of the way, it’s time to focus on package design!

Great package design should attract customers, protect your product, solidify your brand identity, and create continuity amongst your product offerings.

To get a better idea of designs that will sell, check out these articles at Crowdspring (Article 1, Article 2).

But to create products that are ready for retail, you will also need to consider the size and shape of your packaging.

One fundamental rule for retail is that your packaging should not be larger than necessary. Not only will consumers be disillusioned if they open a package to find it’s not full, but stores will also be less likely to put the product on their crowded shelves.

The ease of stocking your product on store shelves is also essential to consider. If your product is in a box make sure it’s not top-heavy and likely to fall over, or off the shelf. If your container is round, consider cases that will hold the items in place.

Paying attention to details like these will reduce any future package changes and save you money in the long run.