In the past year, subscription boxes have become a leading trend in the online shopping industry. The largest eCommerce companies carved out a $10 billion market in 2019, according to McKinsey.  Subscription services were already gaining popularity, however, growth exploded in 2020 due to the increase in online shopping driven by the pandemic. According to Fast Company, subscription box services grew by 40% last year.

Subscription Boxes are More Than Just a Box

There are several benefits and incentives for customers that choose to sign up for subscription boxes.  They offer a variety of personalized experiences for the consumer and are product-focused.  They can be designed for specific markets or demographics, for example:

  • Some appeal to consumers looking to discover new products
  • Others prefer the convenience of automatic delivery
  • Joining to gain access to products personalized for them or exclusive to subscribers.

It is imperative to include a packaging expert on your team to ensure the packaging has the needed structural properties. The boxes not only provide a great unboxing experience but must protect the product in order to ship and arrive safely. The focus should be on the product when the customer receives the product and not a damaged pack.

This is one of the key components of a positive unboxing experience.

The packaging designed must provide stability through the entire shipping environment. Protecting fragile products, liquids, and maintaining the shelf life of the products is paramount. As these packages are shipped mainly via small parcels, the packaging must be designed for a different type of distribution environment. Companies that ship small parcel deliveries include companies like UPS and FedEx, the US Postal Service, and online consumer companies like Amazon, they all have specific requirements for packaging that goes through their systems.

One theme of packaging related to subscription boxes is sustainability. Many entrepreneurs that are venturing into this realm are very conscious of the impact their packaging could have on the environment. Many incorporate elements considered to be sustainable, for example, padding or internal dunnage to protect the product, and primary packs are selected because they allow for the packaging to be reused, recycled, or composted. This is a great time to reach out to your packaging expert, as they will help outline what elements of sustainability are most important to the subscription company and incorporate them into the final package.

Print on the packaging is used for instruction, product info, and especially brand identity and messaging. Here are some great packaging examples of current subscription box services that incorporate the attributes of their product into their packaging:

nakeebutter is a niche product, focused on customers with an active, health-oriented lifestyle that wants an organic, gluten-free, high protein snack while on the go. The packaging has a natural appearance, is recyclable, and selected because it meets their standards for sustainability.

naked butter unboxing experience
IG @nakeebutter

Black Business Boxes reaches out to a specialized market, they feature and support Black-owned businesses and offer new items monthly, introducing products and vendors to their customers. The packaging has a sleek and minimalistic look, emphasizing the product and a fully coated black finish on the outside represents the product and reminds the customer when they unbox.

Black Business Boxes unboxing experience
IG @ blackbusinessboxes

DriftAway Coffee unboxing experience


Driftaway Coffee roasts are personalized for their subscribers and the product is focused on high quality and precision. The packaging follows suit with the theme of details, sustainably responsible, and high-tech packaging for the pouches.  They realize the packaging is the first thing customers see and therefore impacts their first impression. They also made sure the packaging design tied directly into their coffee branding.
IG @driftawaycoffee

As you open your next subscription box, make sure you pay extra attention to the packaging and maximize the unboxing experience. Remember, packaging is much more than just a box with stuff printed on it!

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Camille Corr Chism Packaging Consultant and Print Media Centr AuthorCamille Corr Chism, CPPL Fellow, has a diverse background in packaging engineering, design, supply chain, project management, and new product introductions. Her experience includes a variety of industries including food, e-commerce, technology, distribution, pharmaceutical, industrial, and automotive. Earning an MS and BS in Packaging, Camille earned a Six Sigma Black Belt (2019), and a lifetime certification as a Certified Packaging Professional in 2006. She was inducted into the IoPP College of Fellows in 2014.

Camille is the owner of Indigo Packaging and Consulting. She is the go-to person for all your packaging products and packaging design needs. Connect with her on LinkedIn, LinkedIn Company Page, Twitter @indigopkg, and Instagram @indigopkg



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