There are a lot of decisions to be made as your business grows and you need some help, a big one being: co-packing vs private label. These two industries do basically the same thing, but there are differences in their functions and benefits.
What is co-packing?
Just as a quick review, let’s go over what co-packing actually is. Co-packing is the outsourcing of your product’s manufacturing and packaging to a third-party specialist. A co-packer takes your creation and fine-tunes the production process to make it available on a grander and speedier scale. Depending on the co-packer, they can also help with networking and design.
What is private labeling?
A private label is also a fulfillment entity. But the big difference here is ownership. While a co-packer distributes your recipe under your name, a private label will distribute their product under your name. A private label is perhaps better suited for a company looking to create something but in need of more help.
As you can see from this overview, there are a few distinct differences. But let’s explore a bit further the differences between the two.
Both a co-packer and a private label will yield a finished product, but there are few more things to consider. A private label will work with your brand to create a formula for your product and then package it for you. They will assist in the development of the product, the branding, and the packaging. However, there is no promise of exclusivity when it comes to private labeling. The private label owns the recipe or formula, which means they can do with it as they please.
A co-packer’s services are more varied, depending on the company. At the heart of it, a co-packer will package and distribute your product. Pretty cut and dry. But there are co-packers, like IFS, who will do more than just bundle up your goods. At IFS we offer our clients a myriad of services including design, fulfillment, distribution, reverse logistics, and much more. Our mission is to provide a single-source provider that can meet the ever-changing end-market demand. Our primary pack and secondary pack designs/solutions can be as simple as a shrink bundle for eCommerce compliance, all the way through developing packaging designs to achieve a high-end unboxing experience. Whatever your needs are, from the individual consumer, through reaching the masses via point of purchase displays and “moment of truth” packaging, IFS can service all your needs.
Even within the confines of private label versus co-packer, there are different levels. If you have a product that needs a little work in branding, primary and secondary packaging is for you. If you just want fulfillment of your product, pursue general co-packing. If you have an idea but no idea or way to start, reach out to a private labeling company.
Pricing exists on a sliding scale. All things considered, if we tally up all of the things that both a co-packer and private labeling company do there are slightly different fees due. A private label does everything from start to finish, so their pricing will likely cover more services. With a co-packer, there are more options.
Private labeling will connect you with a team of professionals who will help you formulate, develop, test, design, and ship a polished product. Because their hands are on every aspect of the process, the potential for higher costs is greater. There is also no overhead by completely outsourcing.
When it comes to co-packing pricing, there is some overlap with what you’ll be paying for. You will save on overhead, you’ll be paying for packaging, distribution, and storage. But, unless you opt for a secondary packaging specialist, there will be less to pay for. Co-packers do a lot, but because you’ve already done a good chunk of the work by creating your product costs will likely be less.
These, of course, are broader statements about pricing, and your own research and cost comparisons should be done. Pricing will vary from co-packer to co-packer, as they will with private label to private label.
Summary of Co-Packing vs Private Label
There are many facets that go into the differences between co-packing versus private labeling. Each has its strengths and weaknesses and appeals to different businesses. A private label is essentially a ghostwriter for the mass production of goods. A co-packer is a facility that can elevate your product but focuses on effective mass production. opens in a new windowIFS is considered a “Concept through Consumer” co-packer and can work with you from start to finish to develop the optimal solution to increase your brand awareness and sales.
Reach out about Co-Packing for your business at our Speak to a Specialist Page.
Before we answer the question “What does a Co-Packer do?” in regards to a job, let’s explain what co-packing is below.
A co-packing company is an extra set of eyes and hands for businesses. When your company has outgrown your in-house operation a co-packer will pick up the slack. They facilitate the mass manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of your product. Different co-packing companies offer different services. At opens in a new windowIFS we specialize in assisting companies design, primary pack, and secondary pack their goods.
That’s a co-packing company in a nutshell. For a more detailed explanation of opens in a new windowwhat co-packing is be sure to check out this other opens in a new windowpost.
In order for a co-packing company to assist you, they have to have a staff of capable and qualified co-packers. Being a co-packer is a multifaceted job that combines technical and precision skills. If you’re a hard worker looking to change things up, co-packing could be the career for you.
So what does a co-packer do for work?
The majority of a co-packer’s responsibilities will revolve around the assembly line. This is where bits and pieces become a fully realized and packaged product. In any given facility there will be several lines to be manned and jobs to be done. Co-packers work day in and day out with their hands and that requires a certain amount of stamina. Taking care of the line is what keeps the product flowing.
Working an assembly line requires a lot of focus. Making certain that every step is followed in production is crucial. A co-packer could be in charge of any number of things while working an assembly line. From actual production to packaging, a co-packer must be well versed in every step. On an assembly line things move at a certain pace, a co-packer has to keep up. Most orders being fulfilled by co-packing companies are time-sensitive, so checking every box is essential.
When businesses hire co-packers they are expecting a polished product to hit the shelves. Making sure that the packaging is presentable and properly done is a crucial part of a co-packer’s duties. Depending on the co-packing company, a co-packer could be labeling, sorting, loading the line, packaging, deticketing, bundling, and building displays. Whatever the task, careful hands are required.
The packaging is the first thing a customer will notice on the shelves. This is the curb appeal of any product. The presentation of a product is a driving force in sales and that begins with the co-packer. Co-packing facilities are busy, bustling places; a co-packer must be able to deliver a pristine product to the shelves, no matter the conditions.
Clearing the Line
Making sure the line is clear is key to productivity. If things get backed up, the entire process is in trouble. A co-packer is efficient and knows how to prioritize a task. Clearing the line can include any number of tasks, from separating and sorting, to receiving, loading, and pulling.
This can also include reporting safety standards and the operations of the machines. Audits are performed hourly in the IFS facilities, to ensure that everything is on track and all aspects—from employees to equipment—are functioning properly. These audits also inform on the quality of the product being put out and any portion of the process that needs to be changed or tightened.
The benefits of a clean facility are far-reaching. Debris can accumulate easily in a packing facility, which can cause delays and even safety hazards. Making sure that your surrounding area is clean is the best way to maintain the cleanliness of the entire facility.
When a business outsources to a co-packing company, assuring peace of mind should be a top priority. That’s where quality control comes in. Quality control is integral to the process and those standards have to be held by co-packers.
Given that we are living in the age of COVID, cleanliness is more important than ever. Co-packing companies will have strict cleaning protocols in place specifically to promote the health of their employees.
What Does a Co-Packer Do in Summary
Becoming a co-packer will put you in a fast-paced work environment with opportunities to try new things. In this role, you will be expected to act as a member of a team with a much larger goal. An effective co-packer will be able to evaluate the entire process and determine improvements as needed.
Before now you might not have thought about what it takes to get your favorite shampoo and toothpaste on the shelves, but it is a process that requires a lot of hands and hard work. Co-packers are the reason large and small companies alike are able to get our preferred goods to stores around the world.
If you’re comfortable working with your hands and putting in the hours to serve the masses, co-packing is for you.
So that answers the questions, “What does a co-packer do?”.
Find your next co-packing job on our opens in a new windowcareers page.
For businesses looking to take the next step, the benefits of opens in a new windowco-packing are huge. Signing on with a co-packer provides a multitude of opportunities across the board. With the help of a co-packer, businesses will be able to prioritize formerly neglected aspects of the company and create a more refined product.
One of the biggest values a co-packer can provide is freeing up a business owner’s time. Without having to worry about budgeting time to create and package products you will be much freer to branch out. While the product is the most important part of your business there are so many more elements to your business. With your product in safe and efficient hands, you will be able to focus on a few more behind the scenes essentials, such as:
- Networking and expanding vendor options
A co-packer will save you personal time and save your production time as well. As the needs of today’s consumers change, so does the demand for the way your goods need to be packaged. Whether your goods need to be bundled in small quantities for eCommerce consumption, or assembled into a pallet display for a club store, a co-packer can help. A co-packer’s main objective is to create and package your product in a manner that meets your end-market demand.
The primary function of a co-packer is to mass-produce your merchandise in the format that meets your end-market demand. Depending on the size of the co-packer you could be signing on for a guaranteed volume. A guaranteed volume is an assured amount of your product created by the co-packer. These quantities can range anywhere from 200 to 1,000+ per run. Signing on for a guaranteed volume could give you the chance to expand further than you thought possible and test your boundaries as a company.
If the demand for your product is high enough for you to be joining up with a co-packer, this is the most straightforward way to ramp up production. Creating 200 units of your product might take you weeks on end, but with a co-packer the process is completely expedited through line set-ups and automation (where applicable). Getting your hands on mass amounts of your product is the way to take your business to the next level and no one can do that better than a co-packer.
Hiring a co-packer, and utilizing their pre-existing space, automation, and leadership team could save you money in the end. A co-packer like opens in a new windowIFS has comprehensive care that will do so much more than packaging your product. IFS has created a model that allows their customers to work with one organization for all services from design through consumer::
- Packaging design (primary pack, secondary pack, unboxing experience)
- Display design (structural and creative)
- Ecommerce and retail distribution
- Club Store programs
- Reverse logistics
- Rework (ticketing, deticketing, repack, testing, etc.)
- Kitting, Bundling, Blister Packs, Gift Sets, Subscription Services
The right co-packer will be able to help you improve your product from formulation to distribution. Finding a one-stop-shop for your product will minimize any other outside contracts. Rather than hiring a designer, a distributor, and extra labor to meet demand—all of which would become cumbersome and costly—find a co-packer with the services you need.
As a thriving business, odds are you have your own production line down pat. However, co-packers specialize in efficiency and will be able to accommodate more production in a fraction of the time. More than that, co-packers like IFS offer services in other aspects outside of production:
- Warehousing and Logistics
- Domestic TL, LTL, Small Parcel Carrier Management
- Transportation & Reverse Logistics
Every step of the production process can be entrusted to and improved by a co-packer. IFS handles both primary and secondary packaging which is essentially everything from creation to getting it to the vendor. Because you’re trusting a professional entity with your product there is a certain quality expectation as well. Mistakes commonly made when you’re on your own won’t be a concern when a co-packer is involved. One of the benefits of co-packing is that it has the potential to round out your entire business.
Outsourcing to a co-packer has a lot of compounding benefits when you get down to it. The production of more merchandise, as well as the freeing up of your time, will open the door for more. If you have more time for marketing and networking you’ll likely end up needing more product, and with the demand booming, you’ll need a faster turnaround. A co-packer will be able to fill orders at a rate and with quality that you wouldn’t be able to handle as a solo operation.
The benefits of fast production are more than just financial. A faster output will usually mean a more efficient one as well which means less troubleshooting and more perfect products hitting the market.
Speed in the co-packing industry is a sign of proficiency and dedication to getting your product right time after time.
Working with a co-packer means that you have access to a much wider skill set and much more experienced hands. As a result, your product will nearly instantly have a difference in product quality. Co-packing facilities and workers often have to earn certain certifications before they’re allowed to open their doors, which makes them all the more dependable. The fact is that co-packers will be able to do things you just aren’t capable of doing yourself.
Taking your business to a co-packer is a surefire way to take your brand up another notch. Having professional take care of packaging will give your product a refined look and feel that will make it seem much more at home among big retailers’ shelves. At opens in a new windowIFS we offer our professional touch from production to placement. We will help you get your product on the shelf in a way that will catch eyes and drive sales.
The Benefits of Co-Packing in Summary
The benefits of co-packing stretch across every aspect of being a business owner. When you have a co-packer, you have more time to explore your company’s future and your product will be more readily available to the market. Your product will be in the hands of professionals who will be able to lend you insight and advice to improve quality and cost-effectiveness. Above all, a co-packer can help you reach new heights with a strong product and a firmer grasp on the marketing and distribution facets of the business world.
Reach out about Co-Packing for your business at our Speak to a Specialist Page.
When looking for a co-packer there are a few key things that must be taken into account. Consideration should be given not just to your needs but to the limitations and requirements of your potential new partner and their facility. Some co-packers specialize in food manufacturing, while others specialize in CPG/Medical primary and secondary packaging, like opens in a new windowIFS.
There’s a lot that goes into finding the right outsourcing partner, and that’s what opens in a new windowco-packing specialists are for. Talking to a co-packing specialist can help simplify the finer points and create a better understanding of the process as a whole.
There are layers to co-packing. Some simply deal in filling orders, while some go into primary and secondary packaging. Primary packaging holds the product and secondary packaging takes care of the packaging that is both eye-catching and functional–like putting a bottle of nail polish or eyeshadow palettes into a branded box. Not every co-packer will do it all.
Selecting a co-packer is no light or easy choice, so here’s what we recommend you should look for when the time comes for your company to expand.
The first, and maybe most obvious, thing to take into consideration is pricing.
Having a co-packer as part of your business model can be a bit of a financial balancing act. Yes, it can save you money in regards to overhead and production volume, but there is always a trade-off. Outsourcing comes with a whole new host of fees that you didn’t have to worry about when starting out. With a co-packer, you will be paying for labor, packaging, storage, etc. which can add up.
Then, there is the old saying that time is money, and finding a co-packer will find you with plenty of time on your hands. Because you will no longer be putting all of your efforts into creating, you can start to focus more on managing. Rather than focusing on production, you’ll be able to think of ways to expand, like…
- Coming up with new product ideas
- Opening up the opportunity to network
- Pursuing new partnerships
- And more…
Having a co-packer that handles primary and secondary packaging can impact pricing but these companies will give you more than a filler will. If you know your company is in need of branding and display help then a company like opens in a new windowIFS will have more to offer.
Weigh the costs against the services provided carefully. You want to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck without any corners being cut or any part of product integrity is lost. As in all things, beware of pricing that seems too good to be true.
The bottom line is your company should be sure that outsourcing is something that is financially possible before considering a co-packer. Take the time to evaluate your books and the costs and services of a few facilities. Decide which things are essential to you and what can come to compromise. Always be cost comparing. Shop around until you find a co-packer that will meet your needs without breaking your bank.
It is vital to find the middle ground in out-of-pocket costs and incoming revenue to ensure that you stay afloat and sailing smoothly.
While this usually applies to real estate, a factor in finding a co-packer should be location, location, location.
Even though you’re officially outsourcing your product, it’s still your product so checking in on production is important. If quality control or assurance becomes an issue a visit to the facility might be in order. If your chosen facility is across the country, this could quickly become an issue. Having your co-packer nearby will at least give you a modicum of control when it comes to QA/QC.
Proximity can also help when it comes to cutting shipping fees. Rather than paying transcontinental shipping fees, you could be paying a few hours worth of gas. The ability to keep an eye on things without having your hands full will provide peace of mind in production.
For some, there might not be the option of an in-state co-packer. If that is the case then choosing a facility that has a stellar reputation for communication and transparency is non-negotiable.
Whether you’re looking at co-packers nearby or you have the confidence in a facility across the country you should see it for yourself. Having eyes on the actual facility can be enough to sway your choice one way or another. You can’t trust a company with your product if their factory doesn’t meet par. Getting a proper feel could take more than one visit. This is, again, where a local co-packer would be beneficial to the bank account.
Co-Packer Company History
Just like you would with a new employee, you must perform a deep dive on the companies you are considering for partnership.
Treat finding a co-packer like a job interview. Go in with questions regarding your requirements. A few questions to ask when checking in on a company’s history: How long have they been around? What do former or current customers have to say about them? Who is running this business?
Taking a look at a company’s legacy in the industry is important, but perhaps not make or break. A long-standing co-packer will of course have a better understanding of the entire process and will likely have a wider skill set than a newer start-up. This is not to say that newer co-packers can’t be trusted, everyone starts somewhere. When looking at company history what it will come down to is overall credibility. This newer company might be relatively green compared to a time-honored establishment, but they could have raves about their innovation to back them up.
Some co-packers deal specifically in food and filling, with little else thrown in. If you’re looking for a co-packer who will not only get your product together but make it look better than you could and even help when it comes to distribution, you’ll want to make sure they deal in primary and secondary packaging.
Reviews are what company reputations are staked on nowadays, so listen to what people are saying. Talk to a co-packing specialist to see what their facility is about, to make sure your needs match. You need to be certain that this company you are trusting is going to maintain the integrity of your product.
The name of the company isn’t the only thing that should matter, it’s important to look into the faces as well. The men and women who run the line at the co-packing facilities are the ones you need to trust. Do some digging into the requirements for employment at each facility. Are certain training or certifications mandatory?
Is there an average amount of years worked in this industry among the staff? There are a lot of cogs spinning in a co-packing operation. Be certain they all mesh together before signing on.
Word of mouth is invaluable in the business community. Find out from those who have been there and done that which co-packers are worth your time and which should be avoided. Learn which facilities are reliable, who communicates effectively, which locations are actually worth the money.
Company reputation and history are an exceptionally close second to pricing. Consider these things very carefully at each step.
This should be more of a preliminary step when it comes to finding a co-packer. If a co-packer’s services don’t meet your needs then there’s no point in looking into their pricing and location.
As we mentioned before, co-packers aren’t always a one-stop-shop, services and specialties will vary. If you are in the cosmetics or medical field, a place like IFS would be for you—but not if your brand is artisanal hot sauces.
Co-packers supply a multitude of different services. At IFS, we take care of primary and secondary packaging. Rather than simply filling orders, we are dedicated to manufacturing products in such a way that guarantees safety and appeal. We offer services in packaging as well as design and even display.
If your products have specific packaging and shipping needs, that’s a huge box for a company to check off. You know your product better than anyone, which means you know exactly what it will take to get it done and so should your co-packer.
One thing to look out for is guaranteed volumes or minimums that would be far too much for your company to handle. Guaranteed volumes and minimums are a mandated quantity of your product put down by your co-packer. These quantities can vary based on the size of the co-packer you go with if they have them at all. In general, if you go with a larger company they are more likely to have a production minimum and a big one compared to a smaller company.
Guaranteed volumes are something of a blessing and a curse. If your business is in a place where it can accommodate offloading a 1,000 unit shipment then it won’t be a problem—but it’s always an easy way to bite off more than you can chew.
Before you consider what it will cost or where to look for a co-packer, you have to know exactly what it is you’re looking for. Figure out what is a fixed point and what can be negotiated beforehand.
Now, let’s recap a few of the bigger picture items.
Using a co-packer will take your hands out of the manufacturing and allow you to prioritize other aspects of your company. Maybe manufacturing was the biggest bear of your business. Maybe being stuck in production kept you from developing a different branch of the company. These are all worries of the past with a co-packer. Your new concerns are growing and making sure you stay on track so you can continue to afford your co-packer.
Even if you’re moving production out of your home, it’s ideal to keep things nearby. Finding a co-packer relatively close to you can be the difference between starting over from scratch and making a once-a-month visit to make sure things are to your liking. When options are limited or non-existent in your area, look for a co-packer with an exemplary reputation for efficiency and be prepared to shell out a bit more money.
You want to know the inner workings of your desired co-packer, right down to who is working the line. Learn how capable the staff is, what their business practices are if people who have been where you are right now would recommend their services. Ask all the questions you can think of when talking to a specialist to ensure clarity on any and all of your concerns.
Know what it is you’re looking for before you start doing the leg work. If you know you’ll need more help in design as well as order fulfillment you’ll want to find a co-packer that handles primary and secondary packaging, rather than just filling. Make a list of things you need to stay firm on and what has wiggle room before you get out there to do location scouting and cost comparisons. That way you’ll be able to rule out the right and wrong co-packers without too much extra thought or time.
Finding the right co-packer can be daunting and it will take time and effort to make the proper choice for you and your business. Once you’ve found the right facility the only thing that’s left to do is keep your business growing, something a co-packer can help with leaps and bounds.
To learn more about our co-packing services, become a subscriber to the IFS newsletter.
If you’re in the consumer business world, odds are you’ve heard the term co-packing tossed around here and there. Co-Packing, co-packaging, or contract packaging, is the method of outsourcing the manufacturing and packaging of your product to a facility that specializes in just that.
What is co-packing?
Co-packers come in all shapes and sizes and can accommodate anything from personal health and beauty items to in-home Covid test kits. These companies specialize in ramping up the production of your product, launching the said product, and generally getting everything ready for consumption.
The purpose of bringing on a co-packer is to free up your time and attention so that the rest of your company can flourish. With the pressure of keeping up with or getting ahead of demand off your plate, you’ll be able to work on things like branding, upgrading marketing strategies, and finding new locations and vendors to increase sales.
The Benefits of Contract Packaging
By implementing co-packing, companies are afforded an easier way to get their product out en masse. Co-packers will help companies not just with the production of goods but also with driving sales by meeting fulfillment deadlines. They are the key to keeping your products on the shelves even after they have sold out the first time around.
Instead of being responsible for all the leg work required of couriering your own goods to retailers, a co-packer will handle that for you. Depending on your contract and the co-packer you’re working with, fulfillment can extend all the way to delivering to the retail store.
Co-packers can all but eliminate the need for finding additional facilities on your own. For food manufacturers, there is the issue of finding kitchen space, room for storage, space to package, and all the other steps it takes to mass-produce the perfect chocolate chip cookie or piece of beef jerky. Most co-packers offer storage services along with providing fulfillment and packaging. By outsourcing, companies will have every step of production and distribution handled under one roof rather than shifting locations based on assembly progress.
Bringing on a more professional touch for all of your packaging needs will bring a new feel to your products. If having a home-made quality to your goods is integral to your brand, partnering with a co-packer will give you the opportunity to refine the look but maintain that value. In short, you’ll have more options for your company’s aesthetic direction.
If you find the right co-packer, they might even be able to help with the design of the actual product. These teams can be instrumental in streamlining the entire process and cutting down on waste.
It’s hard, nearly impossible, for any small business to become a one-stop-shop on their own—that’s where a good co-packer can come in handy. There are a few ways to take your business to the next level, using a co-packer is one of the most efficient.
Companies that have been on the rise might find the need to take their operation out of their test kitchens or rented space and into a more substantial facility. A smaller team looking to expand would have the option of bringing on more hands and finding a bigger space or simply finding a co-packer to lighten the load.
Groups like opens in a new windowImpact Fulfillment Services (IFS) specialize in co-packing for pharmaceuticals and cosmetics businesses. Our company is dedicated to fulfilling orders with quality that goes above and beyond our clients’ expectations.
Those who partner with IFS are guaranteed a flawless transition from their in-home operation to a grander scale. An experienced opens in a new windowco-packing company can provide businesses with specialized packing (blister and RF sealing, re-labeling, shrink wrapping, Point of Purchase Displays, PDQ Trays, etc.), top-tier production teams, and client communication beyond compare.
Are you ready for a co-packer?
If things have been steadily on the rise for your company and demand is beginning to eclipse the other aspects of business, it might be time to consider a co-packer. But before you do, there are a couple of things that need to be considered. Outsourcing is a big step to take. It requires a lot of conversation and evaluation within the company.
Before you go forth and pursue a co-packer ask yourself if:
- You have the revenue
- Your product is as fine-tuned as possible
- The demand is there
- You’re ready to take this next rather large step.
A co-packer will take what you’ve got and run with it, which means that all of the instructions come down to you. Co-packers will need to know exactly the steps, materials, and time it will take to create your product time after time without fail. If you don’t have your system down pat, they certainly won’t.
While a co-packer can save you a ton of time, there are costs attached to outsourcing. This kind of growth doesn’t come cheap but knowing exactly what you’ll sink into a co-packer and what you can make from that boom in products is a cost evaluation that must be done.
Certainty about whether demand for your product is enough to handle a minimum volume of 200+ units is a question any business seeking a co-packer should consider. If your demand is stalling or even beginning to decline, a co-packer will not turn things around and could leave you with more products than can be moved.
Going with a co-packer can be an absolute game-changer for businesses that are in the right place to take the plunge. If the next step for your business is mass manufacturing, out-of-office storage, and professional packaging, it might be time to look for a co-packer. IFS’s mission as a co-packing company is to create a professional partnership with each client.
To learn more about our co-packing services, become a subscriber to the IFS newsletter.