The Difference Between Vacuum Packaging & Shrink Wrapping

If you are a company that deals a lot with packaging products, you probably have often times wondered what are the true differences and benefits to different forms of packaging supplies. After all, how you package your products is probably one of the most important things, next to the product itself. It’s what protects it, makes it look good, and in many cases helps to build upon your brand’s image. However, there are some types of packaging supplies that are simply for the sake of protecting your product, rather than making it look good. For instance, vacuum packaging and shrink wrapping are two different ways companies will use to safely pack their products in order to get them into the hands of their customers. These methods are commonly used with food products. However, they can be used for other types of items as well.

The main thing though about these two methods, is that while they appear to be similar they are actually very different. It’s easy to see how they can be confused, since they both use a plastic polymer film. However, the similarities don’t tend to go much beyond that aspect. In this article, we will show you the differences between vacuum packaging and shrink wrapping.

As we just stated above, both of these methods of packaging use a plastic polymer film. This is flexible packaging material that either comes in bag or roll form, and is a majority of the time clear. However, there is a significant difference between the thicknesses of the film that’s used in shrink wrapping versus vacuum packaging. For example, shrink wrap tends to be very thin, whereas vacuum bags are commonly 3 to 4 times thicker than any material ever used for shrink wrapping.

heat-sealer-accessories_src_1Another similarity between these two is the fact that they are both sealed with heat. However, the machinery that is used to both package and seal these methods is very different. In fact, the machinery is not at all interchangeable, and the production process is also completely different.

vacuum-packed-salmonThe last similarity between these two is that they both have a conformed and finished look. However, even though they look similar, the biggest difference between the two is that vacuum packaging is completely absent of oxygen, whereas shrink wrapping is not. When it comes to the vacuum packaging method, an air nozzle or pressure is used to remove all of the oxygen from the package. This method is often used with consumable products, because it naturally will preserve and extend the shelf life of the products.

On the other hand, shrink wrapping appears as if it is also absent of oxygen, however this is not true. In fact, once a package has been wrapped with shrink wrap, all of the air and oxygen is trapped inside and has no way to escape. Because of this, small holes are placed in the film that will allow the oxygen to escape. While this to does help preserve shelf life more so than in unpackaged product, it won’t last nearly as long as a vacuum packed product. This is why shrink wrapping is often used as a method for products that aren’t meant to be consumed, yet still need to be protected.

Both vacuum packaging and shrink wrapping our solid choices when it comes to packing supplies for your product. The key is to determine what exactly your product needs, and to make an informed choice based off the information you know between these two methods.