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Shelf ready packaging (SRP), also known as retail ready packaging (RRP), is a form of bundling  multiple products together in one container. These containers are often cardboard trays or tins. Stores put them on shelves seen by consumers as packets within boxes that allow them to purchase individual items. This simple delivery system allows for fast and easy placement of products on shelves by retailers. Here are deeper details on the benefits of this strategy.

Types of Shelf Ready Packages

A wide selection of variants are used by manufacturers for SRP. They may come in the form of trays, boxes, pallets or other displays. Tea or coffee bags, for example, might sit in a cardboard tray with a cap on top that opens and closes. They might even contain multiple layers of cardboard trays. Candy bars are often bundled in boxes or trays. In a sense, the container that encases a six-pack of bottled beverages might be considered a shelf ready package.

The term, however, surfaced in the mid-2000s in the UK and mainly applies to ready-to-sell secondary packaging. The primary packaging contains an individual product, while the secondary packaging contains multiple products, which protects them in the shipping process. Products placed on checkout counters commonly sit in a corrugated cardboard or reusable plastic display.

How Shelf Ready Packaging Helps Retailers

Many retailers now request suppliers to use SRPs for shipping due to easier storage and placement on shelves, without taking the time to remove each individual item. This strategy potentially cuts labor expenses. Keep in mind that a majority of the work done at a grocery store has traditionally involved unpacking, labeling and placing products on shelves. The more a packaging designer can help a store save time and money, the better chance of developing long-term relationships.

Based on consumption, the composition of the containers may be optimized over time for more efficient product placement. Another advantage is these containers are designed to be opened easily, even for customers, in case one container of products sells out and the store stacks cases on top of each other. 

Another advantage to RRPs is that they are made to be sturdy enough for shipping without damaging the inner packages. In order for retailers to accept this type of packaging, manufacturers must make sure appearance of the products is not compromised during transport. Essentially, the secondary packaging must include the same basic elements that identify the products so that there's no confusion when store employees stock shelves.

The logo must be prominent on the outer container. Many times the design on SRPs intentionally uses bright colors to make the brand more visible to both store personnel and customers. Even as the container becomes empty, it still displays the brand, which allows the customer to know it may be still available in the back inventory.

Trends in Retail Designers Should Notice

Certain large retailers establish memberships for consumers who like to buy in bulk. These type of retailers also attract resellers or organizations that buy for their staffs. This target market should be on every SRP distributor's radar, which can escalate revenue. Big retailers may also want large displays that house a multitude of products for their logistics.

The trend among both large and small shops is toward boxes that don't require knives to open, which raise the possibilities of worker injuries. Easy-open containers are becoming more the norm, except for heavy items. Another trend among retailers of all sizes is toward reusable and sustainable packaging.

Overcoming Challenges

Even though shelf ready packaging adds variant diversity, one problem is the more people handle a primary or even secondary package, the more it's subjected to wear and tear. When customers are constantly throwing items back into boxes after touching them, it can degrade the container. Some customers might even carelessly rip the cardboard lid of a secondary package and then walk away. Degraded presentation can hurt sales, as later customers might assume it's the store's fault and that it doesn't put proper care into handling. 

When problems occur at the store level, it's important for retailers to give feedback to suppliers and make suggestions for packaging improvements. Manufacturers and designers should be open to these suggestions to maintain relationships. The more new global brands proliferate, the more competition there is for physical shelf space. This fact is underscored by the consistent downsizing of brick-and-mortar establishments due to the rise of online shopping. 


The advent of shelf ready packaging has created opportunities for brands to explore new ways to help retailers increase profit margins. Efficiency is the concept that nearly every vendor wants to learn more about these days. The fact that shelf ready packaging saves time and money makes it one of the most important bridges that connects designers and retailers this century. 


Topics: Metal Packaging, Supply Chain Optimization