Packaging may be of several different types. For example, a transport package or distribution package can be the shipping container used to ship, store, and handle the product or inner packages. Some identify a consumer package as one which is directed toward a consumer or household.
Custom packaging is an evolutionary use of modern materials. Thermoforming and vacuum forming allow for expanded capabilities for large trays, displays, and specialty needs. Thermoforming is a method which uses vacuum, heat, and pressure to form the desired material into a shape determined by its mold. This type of packaging is often used by the cosmetic and medical industry.
Packaging may be described in relation to the type of product being packaged: medical device packaging, bulk chemical packaging, over-the-counter drug packaging, retail food packaging, military materiel packaging, pharmaceutical packaging, etc.
It is sometimes convenient to categorize packages by layer or function: "primary", "secondary", etc.
Primary packaging is the material that first envelops the product and holds it. This usually is the smallest unit of distribution or use and is the package which is in direct contact with the contents.
Secondary packaging is outside the primary packaging, and may be used to prevent pilferage or to group primary packages together.
Tertiary or transit packaging is used for bulk handling, warehouse storage and transport shipping. The most common form is a palletized unit load that packs tightly into containers.
These broad categories can be somewhat arbitrary. For example, depending on the use, a shrink wrap can be primary packaging when applied directly to the product, secondary packaging when used to combine smaller packages, or tertiary packaging when used to facilitate some types of distribution, such as to affix a number of cartons on a pallet.