A guide to choosing a custom cardboard box
These days, some online packaging suppliers have literally hundreds of different cardboard boxes of all shapes and sizes held in stock, ready to despatch to you on the same day you place your order. That means you can often get your boxes on the very next working day.
That kind of immediacy can be incredibly helpful, especially to SME’s, because it allows you to respond just as quickly to your own orders and usually get a box that’s near enough to your perfect size to do the job more than adequately.
But sometimes you want one that’s just right; perhaps you want a box that perfectly fits your product without the need for too much extra packaging to fill the space, or maybe you just want to improve your presentation with a specific style, colour or board grade. No matter how big your supplier’s warehouse is, they’re not going to be able to stock the right box for every conceivable occasion or product.
So if you’ve got the time – and lead times these days aren’t that long; you can often get custom cardboard boxes delivered to you within ten working days – why not get your perfect box specially made?
1 Choose the style
If you think a box is a box is a box, think again. FEFCO (the European Federation of Corrugated Board Manufacturers) publishes a guide to all possible box styles, with each one allocated its own unique number (to avoid having to use long and unwieldy verbal descriptions) – and there’s a lot of them. Most people will be happy with a standard carton with flaps top and bottom (0201), a postal box with a fold down lid (0427) or a base and separate lid, like a traditional-style shoe box (0330).
If you do want something more specific, something more complicated or something more tailored towards a particular product, you can find the FEFCO guide by clicking here. If you haven’t got the time or the inclination to wade through that, a drawing of the style you want, or even a picture you’ve found on the internet, will usually be enough for your supplier to work out a quote for you.
2 Choose the size
When specifying the size of your box, give your supplier the internal dimensions you need. Of course, if you need a particular external size (if, for instance, it needs to fit into a particular pricing category, like the Royal Mail small parcel size, for example), you can mention that as well; but, if you just give one set of dimensions (usually length, width and height – in that order), it will be assumed that they are internal.
3 Choose the strength
If you want a simple 0201 carton with flaps, this is relatively straightforward. Single wall boxes will usually hold up to about 10 kilos, while double wall boxes should be okay for up to 30kg. Of course, if you’re sending your products overseas, it’s best to go for stronger boxes to allow for the extra wear and tear. Postal boxes are all single wall, but will be a lot stronger than that might suggest. That’s because the way they fold together means you usually have multiple layers on each side. If you’re not sure what combination of style and strength to go for, ask the advice of your supplier; once they know what you’re planning to pack in your box, they should be able to come up with the best solution.
4 Choose the colour
The cheapest option will nearly always be brown. White is the next easiest, but do bear in mind that unless you specify otherwise, it will be white on the outside only – the box as a standard will still be brown on the inside.
Other colours are likely to be treated as a print job, which is going to mean higher minimum quantities and more expense. See the section on branding below for more information on this.
5 Choose your quantity
These days, you’re generally not going to have to order huge quantities; in fact, many suppliers will quote for as few as five if that’s really all you need. Of course, the more you do order, the lower the unit price will be – that’s standard economics; what you’ll need to balance is getting the best unit price you can out of your supplier with ordering the right amount for your storage space and your needs. Don’t go ordering huge quantities to get a better price if you’re not sure you’re going to need them all.
There are a few situations where you’ll need to order a larger minimum quantity. Printed boxes will require plates to be made, one for each colour, while some boxes can only be made by first making a cutting tool. In both cases this should be an extra cost on the first order only, but it does mean you’ll be looking at a likely minimum of 500 or so.
Getting your boxes printed is no longer just for the big boys. That’s because with minimum quantities of 500 easily available, it’s not going to be as expensive as you may be thinking. Even a single colour logo on the top of your carton can help boost your brand and your profile and is something you need to be giving serious thought to if you want your business to be more than a hobby.
And even if you really can’t afford it at the moment, find out what the cost is likely to be now, so you can start planning for the future.