What Is a Distribution Pack?

Mary McMahon

A distribution pack provides protection for a product throughout the distribution process. It is considered a form of secondary packaging, keeping products secure until they reach retailers and end consumers. Companies may use standardized sizing techniques to make it easier to load trucks and containers with finished products in their distribution packs. In addition to saving space and maximizing efficiency, this can add insulation and prevent jarring in transit. Package design tends to be more focused on space considerations and efficiency than aesthetics, since consumers may not see it.

Distribution packs may be a standardized size to optimize truck loading.
Distribution packs may be a standardized size to optimize truck loading.

Products in their primary packaging ready for sale are encased inside a distribution pack. This could include compact discs in their shrink wrap, cartons of milk, or decks of cards. In some cases, the distribution pack also creates a carrier or sales container for the product. For example, many candy manufacturers sell bars of candy in cases that can be slotted directly into store racks to dispense individual bars. The distribution pack in this case also creates a self-contained sales module.

Likewise, consumers may buy products by the distribution pack. Drinks may come packaged in four packs, six packs, or cases, for example, under the assumption that most consumers don’t want to buy individual units. Some stores offer a discount to customers purchasing whole cases of products that normally come in packages the store must break apart for sale. It can be cheaper to buy a box of 10 candy bars than 10 individual units, for instance.

This packaging protects both the product and the retail packaging, which tends to be the part consumers will interact with. A distribution pack can provide insulation to limit loss of heat or cold, in addition to a layer of material to prevent scratching, tears, and other compromises to the individual packaging. It also increases ease of handling, often with handles or straps to make it easy to grab, and a uniform shape intended to reduce work for truck drivers and other people who may handle the product along the distribution chain.

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In the software industry, this term is used to refer to product releases. Software was historically released in boxes with discs, documentation, and accessory hardware, if applicable. Each of these made up a distribution pack, providing a complete set of components to the end consumer. This terminology is retained even for software products that may be downloaded directly. The download includes compressed files with documentation, user license agreements, warranty information, and similar materials.

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