+86 18329092593sales@trustprints.com

Everything You Want to Know About Food Packaging and Printing

food packaging and printing blog image: Three tea packaging designs with vibrant tropical foliage backgrounds, each featuring a different bird (parrot, cockatoo, toucan) and labeled "PAPAGAYO SHUCHA TEA," "CACATUA CHAI TEA," and "TUCAN BAI MU DAN TEA."
Explore essential printing techniques and safety standards for food packaging, enhancing both visual appeal and consumer protection.

In the dynamic world of food products, packaging serves not only as a protective barrier but also as a key marketing and communication tool. From the choice of printing techniques and materials to adherence to safety standards, each aspect plays a critical role in shaping the product’s market success and consumer safety.

1. Custom Printing Techniques for Food Packaging

In the competitive food industry, the way a product is packaged can be just as important as the product itself. Effective food packaging not only ensures the integrity and freshness of the content but also plays a crucial role in consumer decisions at the point of purchase. Among the various strategies employed to make packaging stand out, custom printing techniques are pivotal.

2. Detailed Analysis of Some Popular Printing Options

CMYK Printing

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (Black), the four ink colors used in the standard color printing process. This technique allows for the creation of a wide range of colors through the mixing of these four base colors. CMYK is highly effective for photographic and full-color artwork, making it a popular choice for brands that want vibrant and visually appealing packaging.


Flexography is a type of printing that uses a flexible relief plate. It is especially suited for large runs of labels and is capable of printing on a variety of substrates including plastic, metallic films, cellophane, and paper. The quick drying times and ability to use non-toxic inks make flexography favorable for food packaging.

Metallic Printing

Metallic printing involves adding metallic inks, such as gold or silver, to the print process. This technique is used to add a shimmer and shine to packaging, which can attract the consumer's eye and convey a sense of luxury or premium quality. It is particularly effective for high-end food products and special editions.

Matte Finishing

Unlike glossy finishes, matte finishing gives the packaging a non-reflective surface. This can enhance readability and provides a sophisticated, modern look. Matte finishes are often used to project a natural or organic image, suitable for health-focused food brands. The tactile aspect of matte packaging can also enhance the consumer's sensory experience, making the product more memorable.

Spot UV Coating

Spot UV coating involves applying a high-gloss UV coating to specific areas of the packaging. This technique creates a striking contrast between the glossy and matte textures, which can highlight important features of the design or branding. It's a great way to draw attention to logos or product names.

food packaging and printing blog image: Two coffee packaging designs with an orange color scheme, featuring the text "ENJOY YOUR COFFEE," "50% ARABICA & 50% ROBUSTA," and tasting notes including "CHOCOLATE, CARAMEL, SMOOTH."
Image by Freepik

3. Case Studies Showing the Impact of High-Quality Printing on Food Packaging

Case Study 1: Specialty Coffee Brand

A specialty coffee brand introduced metallic ink and spot UV coating to its packaging design. The goal was to enhance the shelf appeal and emphasize the premium quality of the coffee. Following the redesign, the company reported a 30% increase in sales and improved brand recognition, particularly in upscale markets where visual appeal significantly influences purchasing decisions.

Case Study 2: Organic Snack Company

An organic snack company switched from standard CMYK printing to a combination of matte finishing and flexography. This change was intended to align the packaging more closely with the brand's organic and natural ethos. The result was a 40% increase in shelf visibility and a 25% increase in sales, demonstrating how effective packaging can attract health-conscious consumers.

4. What Surface Materials Are You Printing On?

Paper and Cardboard

Paper and cardboard are among the most commonly used materials for food packaging due to their recyclability and cost-effectiveness. They are suitable for a wide range of printing techniques, including digital, offset, and flexographic printing. These materials are ideal for dry foods and are often used for boxes, wrappers, and cartons.


Plastic packaging offers versatility and durability, making it a popular choice for a variety of food products, from liquids to perishable items. Plastics such as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) can be tailored for specific needs like moisture barriers and strength. Printing on plastic often requires techniques like flexography or rotogravure to ensure the ink adheres well and withstands environmental factors.


Metal, particularly aluminum, is used in food packaging for cans and foil wraps. Metal provides excellent barrier properties and can extend the shelf life of products. Printing on metal usually involves lithography or specialized digital processes to manage the non-absorbent surface, which requires inks that can dry quickly and resist corrosion.


Glass is less common but prized for its premium look and excellent barrier properties. It is typically used for gourmet sauces, wines, and spirits. Screen printing is a preferred method for glass as it allows for durable and vibrant designs that can withstand handling and washing.

5. What Kind of Ink Do You Need?

Food-Safe Inks

The foremost consideration in choosing inks for food packaging is safety. Food-safe inks are formulated to be non-toxic and resist migration, ensuring they do not contaminate the food. These inks comply with stringent regulations set by authorities like the FDA in the United States and EFSA in Europe.

Water-Based Inks

Water-based inks are popular in food packaging for their low environmental impact and safety profile. They are primarily used on porous materials like paper and cardboard. These inks dry by absorption into the substrate and evaporation of the water content, making them less suitable for non-porous materials like plastic or metal without a proper coating.

UV-Curable Inks

UV-curable inks dry instantly when exposed to ultraviolet light, creating a robust and resistant print finish. This type of ink is ideal for non-porous surfaces like plastics and metals. UV inks are also known for their vibrant colors and high print quality, which make them suitable for packaging that needs to catch the consumer's eye.

Soy-Based Inks

An eco-friendlier alternative, soy-based inks provide high-quality prints with vibrant colors and are easier to recycle than petroleum-based inks. They are suitable for a wide range of materials but are predominantly used on paper and cardboard.

food packaging and printing blog image: Three kimchi packaging designs with varying spice levels and ingredients, labeled different flavor.
Image by Freepik

6. The Importance of Traceability and Safety in Food Packaging

Traceability Systems

Traceability in food packaging is crucial for tracking the journey of a product from its source to the consumer. This system helps in managing recalls efficiently, investigating foodborne illness outbreaks, and ensuring the authenticity of the food products. Industrial printers, coders, and markers play a vital role in this process by printing batch numbers, expiration dates, and barcodes directly on the packaging. These codes are essential for:

  • Quick Recall Management: If a product needs to be recalled due to contamination or safety concerns, companies can quickly identify and isolate affected batches, minimizing health risks and financial losses.
  • Supply Chain Transparency: Traceable data helps all stakeholders in the supply chain monitor and verify the movement of food products, enhancing accountability and consumer trust.

Coders and Markers

Coders and markers are specialized types of industrial printers designed for use in harsh environments typical of food processing plants. They can print on various substrates used in food packaging, such as plastics, glass, metal, and cardboard, ensuring durability and legibility under different conditions. These devices use food-safe inks that are resistant to fading, smearing, and chemical contamination, which is essential for maintaining the integrity of printed information through the product's shelf life.

7. How Printing Technology Meets Industry Standards for Food Safety?

Compliance with Regulations

Printing technology in food packaging must adhere to rigorous standards set by global and regional regulatory bodies like the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the United States and EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) in Europe. These standards ensure that:

  • Inks and Coatings: The materials used in printing processes, including inks and coatings, must be non-toxic and safe for indirect food contact. This means they should not transfer harmful substances to food or alter its taste and smell.
  • Labeling Accuracy: Accurate and legible printing of nutritional information, ingredient lists, allergen declarations, and other mandatory label information is vital for consumer protection.

Technological Innovations

Advancements in printing technology have led to the development of systems that ensure higher accuracy, reliability, and safety in food packaging printing. Examples include:

  • Thermal Inkjet Printers: These printers offer high-resolution printing that is crucial for producing clear, smudge-free dates, codes, and texts on packages. Thermal inkjet technology is also known for its cleanliness and low maintenance, making it suitable for food-safe environments.
  • Laser Coders: Laser coding is a non-contact printing method that etches information onto packaging. It eliminates the need for consumables like inks, making it an environmentally friendly and safe option for food packaging.
  • UV Printing: UV-curable inks are popular in food packaging for their quick-drying properties and durability. The instant curing process reduces the risk of ink migration and contamination.

Best Practices for Safety

Implementing best practices in the use of printing technology in food packaging is essential for maintaining food safety. This includes regular maintenance and calibration of printing equipment, using only approved materials and consumables, and training staff on compliance and safety protocols.


In conclusion, the integration of advanced printing techniques, careful selection of materials and inks, and adherence to safety standards are crucial for ensuring the success and safety of food packaging. By leveraging these elements effectively, food manufacturers can enhance brand visibility, consumer trust, and overall market competitiveness.

Image by pikisuperstar on Freepik

Cover image source