What is the difference between co-packaging and co-manufacturing?

Co-packaging, contract packaging, and co-manufacturing are three terms often confused.

What is co-packaging?

Co-packaging, short for “contract packaging,” encompasses two distinct applications in the food packaging process. Co-packaging can refer to taking a finished food item and putting it in its primary package – putting a candy bar in its wrapper, for example. Co-packaging can also include secondary packaging, where the wrapped candy bar is placed in a carton or case, or cartons/cases are packed into a built retail display.

What is co-manufacturing?

Co-manufacturing is the actual mixing, blending, baking, or cooking in the food production process. A co-manufacturer can be hired by another food processor looking for additional line capacity, a unique processing skill, or the necessary equipment for creating a finished product. Or a co-manufacturer can be engaged by a “virtual” food company that outsources all of its food processing. More often than not, the co-manufacturer puts the finished product into its primary package. However, there are situations where the “co-man” will ship the finished goods in bulk to a co-packager, who will put the product in its primary packaging.

Benefits of outsourced packaging

Outsourcing packaging needs to 3PLs or co-manufacturers gives food processors the flexibility to scale to meet demand. Food processors and CPG manufacturers frequently outsource their secondary packaging to contract packagers and some/all of their production to co-manufacturers if they don’t have the appropriate facilities, resources, and staffing to manage these operations in-house.