How to Choose the Best Package for Your Food

As with any business decision, a lot goes into choosing the best packaging for your food. There’s the fit, the look, the materials used, performance characteristics that have to be considered, and much more. In this guide, we’ll walk through the different variables that go into this choice and help you with how to choose the best package for your food.

As a business owner, you know the importance of making a good first impression, and that’s why packaging matters so much. In restaurants alone, food delivery is more than a $150 billion industry. More and more businesses of all stripes are becoming delivery-friendly and in the case of third-party apps and deliverers, your food packaging might be your customer’s first direct interaction with your brand.

So, to help businesses make informed packaging decisions, we at Inno-Pak decided to put together this guide on how to choose the best package for your food. It includes context and information about how to pick the packaging that works well for you. If you want a quick to read table of Inno-Pak packages compared to common foods, feel free to download the chart above.

In this guide, you’ll find the following sections:

How Good Packaging Can Benefit Your Food

Before we get into how to choose good food packaging, let’s talk about why you want to do it. Food packaging is an integral part of your business—whether you’re running a restaurant, a bakery, a deli, a grocery store, or a convenience store.

Good, innovative packaging:

  • Reflects your brand’s values
  • Makes a good first impression on your customers
  • Keeps hot foods hot and cold foods cold
  • Prevents your products from getting soggy from steam or moisture
  • Protects food during delivery and transit
  • Doesn’t let food leak through onto customers’ clothes or cars
  • Fits multiple roles and multiple foods
  • Is easy to use by employees and customers alike
  • Is cost-effective

Often, customers will see and experience the food packaging before they get to see, let alone taste, your food. In many cases, if the packaging doesn’t convey the value of your food, then the value of your food isn’t being conveyed—and you could be losing business. A good food-packaging fit ensures that you get a fair chance in the marketplace.

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How Bad Packaging Can Harm Your Food

A woman is unhappy with her order because the structure of the packaging didn't perform well.

Conversely, bad packaging creates a poor reputation for your food before it’s even been tasted. A poorly designed or engineered package will give customers an unfair sense that your food is cheap, low quality, or just unappetizing. It can also define your business as cheap or low quality by extension.

Bad packaging:

  • Contradicts your brand’s values
  • Makes your food look unappealing
  • Turns your food into soggy versions of itself
  • Can leak which might ruin your customer’s clothes or car seat
  • Serves every meal at room temperature
  • Mixes foods and flavors during transit
  • Can only do one job—or does several jobs poorly
  • Is over (or under) engineered
  • Isn’t priced competitively

So, now that you have all the reasons why you should strive for good food packaging and avoid bad packaging, the question becomes how do you pick a good package for your business?

What Elements Should You Consider

Picking a package involves making choices and weighing the tradeoffs of those choices. You might choose to go for a plastic container because of the strength and convenience of plastic, but you’ll have to contend with the environmental reputation of plastic. Or maybe, you like the look and feel of paper but are concerned about its performance in delivery over rigid plastic containers?

However you choose your packaging, you’re going to have to weigh the materials you use, the sustainability you want, the fit and size of your food and the package, the look you want, the performance you need, how it handles delivery, and, of course, your budget. The thread that weaves through it all, however, is your brand.

First, Your Brand

While it might seem irrelevant, your brand should be your first consideration when you’re choosing your food packaging.

Is yours a brand that sells quality products at a good price? Then you probably want a straightforward, value-focused package. If instead, your brand focuses on delivering a unique and memorable experience, then you’re going to want a package that complements that experience. Similarly, if sustainability is an important part of your brand values, you’re going to need to choose packaging that reflects those values and avoid packages that undermine them.


Now that you’ve got your brand firmly in mind, one of the elements you’ll need to consider is the sustainability story you want to tell. Does your product support the environment or minimize damage to it by recycling, composting, or reducing source material—or perhaps a combination of these factors?

Of the many sustainability factors to consider, we recommend asking yourself if the package:

  • Reduces material usage/weight?
  • Reduces the use of virgin materials?
  • Uses environmentally friendly materials?
  • Is recyclable?
  • Is commercially compostable?

It’s important to consider your brand here because your packaging, just like your food, is going to be viewed as an extension of your brand. If you serve locally grown and harvested foods to customers in an environmentally friendly way, they’re going to hear you when you tell them your sustainability story.

Want more information about packaging sustainability? Read our 2023 Trends In Packaging: Sustainability article.


Of course, packaging has a job to do, and it must do that job well to be asset to your business. When we look at the performance of our packaging, we’re primarily evaluating three things: its durability, its ease of use, and how well it handles delivery/transit. We’ll talk about delivery and transit later in this article. For now, let’s focus on durability and ease of use.

When thinking about the durability of packaging, you need to consider the wear and tear of transportation. Try putting your largest or heaviest meal in a package and drive it home. When it arrives, was it damaged? Did items get mixed together and swap flavors?

Simultaneously, packaging should work for you, not against you. No one likes to eat from a food package that’s constantly getting in the way or that’s hard to open or close. Try to use the packaging you’re evaluating and see how you’d like to eat with it. Do the flaps or lids that seal the package tear away and stay out of the way? Or do they try to return to their original position—getting in the way of you enjoying your food?

Your employees, too, need to be able to quickly use the food packaging in your business in order to keep up with orders in a business where every second counts. See if your employees can try out any new packages you’re evaluating. Do they decrease the time spent or keep it the same? Are they less likely to spill or cause other issues?


A third trend in packaging for 2023 will be brands trying to improve their recyclability. This image depicts bundles of recycled paper waiting to be reused.

Now that you have an idea of your performance and sustainability needs, it’s time to think about the materials you’ll want to use. You’ll need to tailor your choices to fit the sustainability story you want to tell while also getting the performance you need.

Keep in mind that paper has a better reputation for sustainability than plastic does. But, ultimately, you have to find the solution that works best for your business and your community’s resources. Look around for commercially compostable facilities and recyclers in your area. What makes the most sense for your brand, customers, and area?

You may find that you need the high performance characteristics of rigid plastic and have a local recycler who can accept them. Or you might find that you can work with paper cartons that are commercially compostable and welcome near you. Balancing these tradeoffs, while difficult, is the key to finding the right package you need.

Want more information about materials? Read our 2023 Trends In Packaging: Structure and Function article.

Fit and Size

The fit and size of your packaging is crucial to a successful packaging program. You want packages that fit your food easily. Ideally, you want them to have little space left over as well so customers don’t feel like they got a small portion. Getting your packaging right-sized is critical. It’s why we offer five different sizes of the INNOBOX EDGE™ carton.

Take the regular orders from your menu, combo meals especially if you offer them, and see how they fit into the different packages you’re evaluating. Try asking yourself the following questions:

  • Does the lid still close securely?
  • Is there extra room in case of custom orders or extra add-ons?
  • If a customer ordered an extra side of fries, would you have to use two packages or would a bigger one make sense?

Keep in mind that fit and size also directly correlates to how many packages you have to store in your back of house and how many your employees have to be able to use correctly and quickly. There are times when it makes more sense to use a larger or multipurpose package in order to reduce the number of SKUs you’re ordering and stocking.

For instance, a 170 oz. bucket is great for several pounds of chicken, but it’s also great for family meals, popcorn, and even ice. Depending on what you’re serving, you may be able to reduce your storage and shipping needs.

The Look

Food packaging has appeal to customers whether it’s on the shelf at a supermarket or dropped off on someone’s porch. Otherwise, it can harm their appetite. The packaging has to convey the value of the product inside it, which means you want a package that looks clean and inviting—not something that’s leaked grease or is difficult to open or handle.

By now, you should have a few options in mind for your packaging. As you narrow down your options, ask yourself these questions:

  • How does your food look inside of it with the lid open? With the lid closed?
  • Does the package get greasy or otherwise unappealing after some time?
  • Does it appear easy to open and/or inviting?


Food delivery is a growing business and it makes up more and more of restaurants, grocery stores, and even convenience stores’ bottom lines every year. Many third-party apps will deliver up to five miles—which could mean multiple potholes, sharp turns, and other hazards to your food.

That’s why it’s important to get a package that can stand up to the rigors of even a rough delivery experience. Having inserts that keep your food separate from each other or compartmented plastic containers can help keep your foods from swapping flavors during delivery and transit.

You may also have to contend with the fact some delivery drivers infamously steal food from their customers. You’ll want to consider investing in tamper-evident packaging, which will make it clear to your customers when someone has messed with their food. For more about tamper-evident packaging, see our comprehensive guide or view our Handle Cuffs™ Tamper-Evident Bag Seals.


Of course, everything comes down to the budget one way or another. If you’ve followed our suggestions above, you should have the right-sized packaging with the right performance characteristics that makes an impactful, yet cost-effective, investment in your brand. If you’ve got too large a package or are using too many SKUs, you may be missing out on cost savings.

We recommend looking at your packaging as an extension of your brand and not just a cost of business. After all, it could be your customer’s first direct point of contact with your business. It makes sense to have a brand ambassador that makes a good impression rather than a poor one.

Let Us Help You

Customers will use your packaging as a part of their decisions about whether to buy your product. That’s why it’s crucial to have a packaging partner that can help you navigate the many different elements that need to be considered. At Inno-Pak, we pride ourselves on working with our customers to find the best packaging for them and not just sell to them. To see how we can partner with you to help you put your best food forward, contact us using the form below.