Cigarette Packaging Explained

Post date: 30 March 2017

The purpose of this article is to explain the main styles and formats of cigarette and tobacco packaging that exist within the tobacco industry.  Some of the newer, more experimental, styles are also discussed.  It is interesting to note that none of the newer formats is yet to become “mainstream” and that there is still a production volume in the four main primary styles.  Secondary, grouped, and tertiary, distribution, packs are also discussed.

Primary cigarette packaging

There are four main styles of primary cigarette packs.  By far and away the most significant is the “hinge-lid pack” or “flip-top pack”.  This is the name for the rigid cardboard pack which protects the cigarettes from damage and is most popular in western markets, although its popularity is increasing in eastern markets too.  The next most significant is the “soft pack” or “soft cup pack” which is essentially a pack of paper construction that offers less protection to the cigarette but is less costly to produce.

Different cigarette pack styles

Before the hinge-lid pack was produced, and still popular in some parts of the world, is the “shell and slide” pack which offers the same protection as the “hinge-lid pack” but does not provide such easy access to the cigarettes.  Lastly, and most popular in Russia and the former Soviet Republics, is the “shoulder pack” or “clamshell pack”.  This is a stiff cardboard pack with a lid that opens in the same way as a tin of cigars.
Into each of these styles of packs are placed a number of cigarettes.  Typically these are either in quantities of 10 or 20.  However, some markets such as Australia favour 25, 30 or even 50 in a single pack.  For vending machine purposes, it is typical for 17, 18 or 19 cigarettes to be packed ensuring that the price sold is a whole number for ease of vending.

Secondary packaging

Once the primary pack has been manufactured the individual sales unit is produced.  The individual sales unit is the size of the pack that goes to the retailer which is then broken down into individual cartons for sale.  Alternatively, this distribution-sized pack is a convenient size for “duty-free” sales.  For a 20s pack, the typical distribution size is a 200s pack, i.e. 10 packs of 20s.  However, depending on the sales requirement distribution sizes of 100 (5 packs of 20s) and 400 (20 packs of 20s) are also common.

Wrapping & collation

Once the individual 20s or 10s pack has been wrapped, it can be collated and wrapped in clear film, wrapped in printed film, collated and wrapped in paper or collated and boxed.  After boxing, the pack is typically overwrapped using specialist machinery

The most typical format for secondary packaging is the 200s collation – 2 packs high by 5 packs wide.  For maximum protection, especially if the product is destined for “duty-free”, a boxing machine collated and boxes the product before an overwrap is used to ensure pack integrity.  If protection is less important and the 200s collation will be unwrapped at the retailer, then clear polypropylene wrapping film is an economic method of forming the collation.  If it is unsure as to whether the collation is for direct sale or splitting down by the retailer, the use of either printed film or printed paper wrapping provides an economic method of packaging which is suitable for most sales channels.

As an alternative to the 2 high by 5 wide pack is the 1 high by 2 wide by 5 deep pack which produces a “brick” of packs in very nearly the same proportion as the individual pack.  These facsimile packs offer an attractive display face suitable for advertising or promotional purposes.

Retail multipack

A development of recent years, driven by taxation both high and low, has been the development of retail multipacks containing 40, 60, 80 or 100 cigarettes and at the other end of the scale duty-free packs containing 400, 600, 800, 1000 and as many as 1600 cigarettes.  

Wrapped packs of 40s

The 40s pack is generally two 20s packs wrapped together using a dissimilar polypropylene film to stop it from heat sealing to the primary wrap.  The 40s pack offers the consumer the promise of savings from a price point and the convenience of several days supply in one purchase.  The large multipacks, however, are film wrapped or boxed multiples of 200s packs which take advantage of differing taxation regimes, particularly in the European Union,  allowing the traveller to purchase tax paid cigarettes for personal consumption in the country of embarkation.

Tertiary packaging

The tertiary packaging is the transit sized, warehouse distribution pack before palletisation takes place.  The distribution pack can hold 3000, 5000 or even 10,000 cigarettes consisting of up to 50 boxes of 200 cigarettes.  The distribution pack can either be fluted cardboard and be packed on a case packing machine or polyethylene wrapped on a stretch bander or shrink wrapper.  The advantage of the case packer is that of strength – the carton board provides a rigid container for the packs.  The polyethene wrapper, on the other hand, produces a less expensive pack that occupies less palletising, distribution and warehouse space.

Special styles of primary packaging

Most forms of special primary packaging are being produced to assist with product differentiation.  Some of the special types are variations on an existing theme.

Modern techniques for tobacco pouch overwrapping can be utilised with a tobacco pouch collator.

The use of plastic, foiled sealed clamshells have been used for exclusive cigarettes.  Mimicking cigar packaging by putting cigarettes into tins has also been tried.  Other formats involve packing into a cylindrical tube.  In some markets, the flow wrapping of just two cigarette sticks together is an attempt to sell at a particular price point.

Anything which can increase the point of sale presence, enhance the appeal of the cigarette and still be produced economically will be tried.    As yet, no style has become sufficiently popular to displace any of the four types already listed.

To learn more about overwrapping and tobacco packaging machinery, please visit the Marden Edwards website and/or view and subscribe to the Marden Edwards YouTube channel.

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