Cereal packaging traditionally has been mostly a matter of placing filled plastic bags inside cardboard boxes. This is partially because this packaging is economical, partly because it prevents moisture from spoiling the cereal, and partly because it provides broad, uninterrupted areas for colorful graphics and advertising. There are, however, other forms of cereal packaging, including vacuum-sealed containers, metal tins and plastic cups or bowls designed also to be used as the serving dish. Refrigerated cereal packing emerged to give consumers convenience, sometimes wrapping a serving of milk or yogurt with a serving of the grains so a complete meal could be eaten without requiring multiple packages of ingredients. Many forms of cereal packaging evolved to be environmentally friendly, including recycled materials and less packaging overall to reduce usage.
One of the most recognizable forms of cereal packaging is a box that contains a plastic or waxed bag on the inside to hold the cereal. Aside from the large, flat area that is available on the outside for advertising, the exterior box serves two other purposes. The first is that the cardboard will remove excess moisture that can be encountered during transport, keeping the cereal crisp. The second is to protect the grains from physical damage by absorbing impacts to the box, maintaining the shape of the cereal inside.
Cereal also can be placed in plastic bags without the box. This method is commonly used for bulk volumes of cereal that make a large box impractical. The bags do not provide the same protection from crushing impacts, but they do provide convenience to the consumer, because the bag can progressively be condensed to a smaller size as the amount of cereal it holds decreases.
Vacuum-sealed cereal packaging, usually made from laminated materials, creates a tightly sealed environment for the grains. The solid block of cereal is more resistant to damage and naturally repels moisture, which cannot penetrate the vacuum. This method is costly to implement, however, and is mostly used for fresh cereals that include freeze-dried ingredients such as fruits.
Some companies produce cereal packaging made from solid containers composed of plastics or other materials. There is often more air than grain in these containers, but their purpose is to double as a serving dish when the cereal is being eaten outside the home. Other versions of this type of packaging are made from recycled materials, so they will hold milk or other liquids for a time, and then begin to decompose after use.
Specialty manufacturers of cereals occasionally use unique types of packaging, both for brand identification and for their unique properties. Metal containers are easily identifiable and also can withstand the rigors of transport. Additionally, the containers can be reused by consumers, giving the producers a chance to subtly advertise the cereal in the home even after it has been eaten.