A contract packer, or co-packer, is a company that manufactures and packages foods or similar products for their clients. To market and distribute, a copacker works under contract with the hiring company to manufacture food as though the products were manufactured directly by the hiring company.
A co-packer is similar to a contract manufacturer in other industries, such as automotive or aerospace. Co-packing is commonly used when the producing company doesn't have the packing capacity, machinery, knowledge etc.
Copackers specialize in different areas, depending on whether they are handling primary or secondary food packaging.
Primary packaging deals with the first layer of packaging that directly contacts the product. Special licensing needs to be in place to handle the primary packaging of food or pharmaceutical products.
Secondary packaging refers to the next layer of packaging or the packaging used to group various pre-packaged products together. Depending on the type of co-packing required, licensing may or may not be required for secondary packaging.
Secondary co-packing is typically used for the purposes of branding and display. Secondary co-packing can also bundle or group products together in a new configuration (multi-pack, etc.) for ease of shipping or storing.