Understanding the Confusing World of Product Packaging

Amy Hawthorne

by Amy Hawthorne

13th June 2014

The Secret of Steve Jobs

When you have developed a product, you need to tackle the intricate task of choosing the most effective product packaging to put it in.

You should never underestimate the importance of the right packaging. I once met someone who worked for Steve Jobs, helping to design the product packaging for Apple. He said they spent lots of time and resources ensuring that the packaging box was slow and smooth to open. This is to build up the customer’s tension and excitement about revealing the product inside, almost like a Christmas Day that takes ages to arrive.

This type of product packaging has a remarkable impact; most Apple customers remember that experience of opening their first Apple product.

Product Packaging in the Chemical Industry

When you’re choosing some product packaging for material manufactured in a chemical factory, things can get complicated. You might have a unique, inspirational idea, but the packaging of hazardous substances can pose some limits to your creativity.

It’s likely that a particular size and shape will be optimal for the packaging and storage of your product, and when it comes to choosing the material, choice could be restricted. Many materials react badly with hazardous substances, or aren’t strong enough to hold them securely.

So, taking everything into account, which type of product packaging should you opt for?

Finding the best size and shape for your product packaging

When choosing the best size and shape for your product packaging, you have to take into account not only the nature of your product, but also the purpose.

The choice here will depend largely on what your product does, the quantities you require and your own customers’ needs.

Here are the most popular options we offer at ReAgent, although this list isn’t exhaustive. If you have any other requests, our packaging experts may be able to assist.

  1. Ampoules
Ampoules are small containers that are hermetically sealed for protection against contaminates

Ampoules are small containers that are hermetically sealed for protection against contaminates

Ampoules are small containers that are hermetically sealed for protection against contaminates. If your product needs to be protected from air or other contaminates, this heat-sealed container could be the ideal solution for you.

Our ampoules are made of glass and so are suitable for non-flammable liquids that are compatible with glass.

They’re available in sizes ranging from 0-2ml and if you require large batches of product in a short space of time, ampoules may be the right option – our ampoule filling and sealing machine can produce up to 6000 ampoules per working day.

Due to their compact size, ampoules would be perfect as part of a test kit or product sample.

  1. Bottles

We supply bottles to package your product in volumes of 5ml-1 litre, in HDPE or glass. You can read on to find out which material is most suitable for your product.

By outsourcing your bottling to us, we are equipped to save you money and time with our hi-tech equipment, including an in-house water treatment plant and volumetric bottle filling machines.

Feel free to email or call us, to discuss which shape and material your bottles should be.

  1. Jerricans
Jerricans are the perfect option for small batches or restocking

Jerricans are the perfect option for small batches or restocking

Jerricans are the perfect option for small batches or restocking. A jerrican is a large, flat-sided container suitable for both storing and transporting liquids.

They are available in volumes of 2.5 litres – 25 litres, in both HDPE and glass.

Our 25 litre jerricans also include an optional tap for dispensing and distributing liquids, which is useful if you need to pour your substance into smaller containers. Jerricans can also come with a vented cap to prevent gases from causing too much pressure and expanding.

  1. Drums

Drums are 208 litres and their size makes them suitable for larger orders. They are available in stainless steel, plastic or composite.

Some advantages of drums are that they are stackable – they can store and ship both hazardous and non-hazardous materials. They are strong and have ridges that increase this strength.

We can top necessary containers with vented caps, when they are holding gases that are likely to expand.

Because of their strong, stackable and versatile nature, drums are useful for filling with a variety of substances, including:

  • Acids and alkalis
  • Organic and inorganic compounds
  • Non-hazardous liquids and powders
  • Creams, gels and a range of other highly viscous substances
  • Volatile substances
  • Pure chemicals
  1. IBCs
An IBC is a 1000 litre cube-like container

An IBC is a 1000 litre cube-like container

An IBC (or Intermediate Bulk Container) is a HDPE or metal cube-like container, commonly of 1000 litres.

IBCs are fitted with a tap for distribution into smaller containers, and you can also access the product from the top, if this is more convenient.

IBCs are useful for when you need to store and supply large volumes of your substance. The shape of the containers allows for efficient space utilisation and they are compatible with many substances, including hazardous materials.

Choosing the best material for your product packaging

When packaging chemicals, it’s vital to bear in mind the properties of each substance contained; will they combine and result in a dangerous reaction? Is it critical that they do not leak from their container?

Here’s a breakdown of materials we offer and information about their properties, so you know exactly which to go for. If you can think of any other suitable materials for your product, let us know because we may be able to source it for you.

  1. HDPE (plastic)

HDPE is a High Density Polyethylene generally used for bottles, jerricans, drums and IBCs.

It is suitable to package a wide variety of substances, as it is resistant to the effects of hazardous materials. HDPE is also able to withstand higher temperatures, which is useful if your substance produces an exothermic reaction.

HDPE is strong and durable, and its recyclable nature means it’s kinder to the environment than many other plastics – often an important element to consumers.

  1. Stainless steel

Stainless steel is the material chosen for IBCs and drums, as it is durable and long-lasting.

Stainless steel also resists corrosion and rust better than ordinary steel, meaning it maintains its appearance and usability for longer.

Generally, stainless steel is highly resistant to acids and oxygen, but resistance varies depending on the type and concentration of acid. All types of stainless steel can resist attack from phosphoric acid, but hydrochloric acid will damage the steel, so should be avoided if hydrochloric acid makes up an element of your substance.

  1. Composite material

Composite materials are composed of two materials with significantly different properties.

Effective for storage purposes, they are a double-secured container. For example, composite drums are a mixture of steel and HDPE, necessary to contain and secure some volatile substances. The role of the steel ensures the strength and durability of the container, while the plastic is a safer option for chemical substances, as it is generally unreactive.

Composite materials are useful for when your storage option needs to be lightweight, but strong and durable against chemicals.

  1. Glass
Glass has properties that make it perfect for certain substances

Glass has properties that make it perfect for certain substances

Glass has properties that make it perfect for some substances, but other properties that should alert you against its use.

One benefit of glass is that it is transparent and can look modern and appealing. It can also be moulded into any shape, making it highly versatile. Glass is durable enough to withstand the action of water without the fear of erosion.

Glass may be suitable for any non-flammable and compatible products including some acids and alkalis, and toxic and non-toxic liquids.

On the other hand, glass cannot be used to contain substances where an exothermic reaction may occur, as the heat produced can cause the glass to break (and potentially spill dangerous chemicals).

Glass can be dissolved by some chemicals, such as hydrofluoric acid, but we can advise you on the occasions where glass should be avoided.


Contact ReAgent’s sales team on sales@reagent.co.uk and they can discuss the best packaging for your product and give you an idea of pricing. We can provide materials and sizes that aren’t included here or elsewhere on our website. If you have a product packaging idea in mind, let us know what it is and we will do our best to meet your specification, and offer alternatives where there are cheaper or safer options. 


All content published on the ReAgent.ie blog is for information only. The blog, its authors, and affiliates cannot be held responsible for any accident, injury or damage caused in part or directly from using the information provided. Additionally, we do not recommend using any chemical without reading the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), which can be obtained from the manufacturer. You should also follow any safety advice and precautions listed on the product label. If you have health and safety related questions, visit HSE.gov.uk.