Vacuum Packaging vs. Shrink Wrapping

Vacuum packaging and shrink wrapping are often confused with each other due to the look of the finished product. Vacuum packaging and shrink wrapping both use clear flexible packaging materials that appear conformed to the product being packaged. The conformed look of both seems to be air tight. This belief is one of many misconceptions of shrink wrapping and vacuum packaging.

We have listed some similarities and differences between vacuum packaging and shrink wrapping below with an explanation of each. We have also included a video to demonstrate some of the differences they share.


Clear Flexible Packaging – Both forms of packaging often use clear bags or rolls of a plastic polymer film. There are acceptations, but the majority of vacuum packaged and heat shrink products use a clear film.

Heat Sealing – Both vacuum packaging and shrink wrapping use heat sealing to enclose the packaged product within the packaging.

Conformed Finished Look – Both forms of packaging have an exterior film conforming to the product being packaged.

Both are Often Used for Food Packaging  - Both shrink wrapping and vacuum packaging are often used for packaging foods and consumable items.


Thickness of Materials Used – Vacuum packaging and shrink wrapping both use flexible packaging to enclose the product being packaged. The flexible packaging bags or rolls used in vacuum packaging are thicker than the film used with shrink wrapping. Vacuum bags are commonly 3-4 times thicker than most materials used for shrink wrapping.

Machinery Used – Though both forms of packaging use heat sealing, the machinery used during production is completely different. The machinery used for each is not interchangeable.

Absence of Oxygen – This is the most common misconception between the two forms of packaging. Vacuum packaging uses an air nozzle or pressure to remove all or the majority of oxygen from a package. The absence of oxygen can often increase shelf live and naturally preserve consumable products.

The conformed look of shrink wrapping appears to be absent of oxygen, which is not correct. After a package is sealed with shrink wrapping, the trapped air and oxygen have no way to escape the package. Small vent holes are placed in the shrink film to allow air to escape the package making the film capable of allowing oxygen exposure to the packaged product. Oxygen exposure is reduced compared to a non-covered object, but the package is not completely sealed from exterior elements.

The video below displays how vacuum packaging and shrink wrapping remove air from the package interior. If you have any questions about vacuum packaging or shrink wrapping feel free to give us a call and one of our representatives will assist you.