Posted on October 13, 2022 by Michael Boik

Flexographic Mailer Pricing—What Variables Determine Cost?

While our customers may have several factors in mind when considering their custom mailer box options (sustainability, sizing, presentation), the most common and typically most weighted is cost, and understandably so. After all, custom packaging should help your bottom line, not hurt it. For this reason, often times it is important to learn the basics of what goes into determining cost from a packaging supplier’s standpoint, so that you have a grasp of what may or may not be possible/feasible according to your budget or target price in mind.

It’s worth mentioning that the following are more guidelines than rules, and that custom products do not follow a set price sheet because many of the variables are constantly changing within the industry. But you can develop a pretty solid base understanding of how cost is determined and plan accordingly.


Board Cost—Square Footage (Quantity)

When a packaging supplier speaks of order minimums, they are usually determining this number based on the minimum that is set forth from the sheet plant or board supplier. This is typically set in square footage, and from there a box minimum is calculated. Corrugated board is a paper product like any other, and as you may know from purchasing other paper products (toilet paper, tissue etc), the price will always improve at higher quantities. This is why you can buy a roll of toilet paper for three bucks, or 12 rolls for ten. The price per unit will come down substantially if it means the amount of board ordered for the production run can result in a better price for the supplier. This is why there may be as high as a 15-20% price reduction between a 1,000 piece box order and 2,000.


Machine Passes, inside/outside

To put it simply…machine time is correlated to cost. Or perhaps better stated, machine set up time is what determines everything, because high speed equipment needs to be running to be economical. If the machine is turned off to set up to run a job where another job could already be up and running, this is not ideal for the plant. Set-up time, is down time.

Equipment can vary from plant to plant, but MOST flexographic machines are set up to run up to 2-3 colors in a single pass. Although some can do 4. This means that as long as you are printing only on the outside of the box, the cost may remain relatively comparable among 1, 2 or sometimes even 3 color jobs. However, printing on the inside of the box will require the board to be flipped and run back through for another pass. Keep in mind that coatings such as varnish may require an additional pass, and therefore more machine time. Consider also that ink stations will need to be cleaned before adding new inks or varnish during production, and if the plant does not have the ability to dry the ink in-line, this will also add to the overall machine time of the job.


Ink and Board Color

We’ve always said that white board may add about 6-12% in cost compared to kraft per side (inside vs outside). Ink colors may also minimally effect the price as well, although the number of colors used is typically a larger impact on price than color, unless special inks or coatings are used.

Triple white board is a bit of a rare breed in the industry, but we have produced it several times. You can read about it here, but essentially, adding a white corrugated medium (fluting) will add cost as well compared to double sided white, and certainly when compared to kraft.


Size/Number Out

This is the big one because just as high speed equipment needs to stay running to be economical, it also can be more economical by running 4 or 6 at a time of a box, instead of only 1 at a time. This is what is referred to as the number out of a specific mailer box. Most larger boxes are 1 out, meaning one box is cut and printed at a time on the machine. However, medium sized mailers might be 2 out, and many small boxes may be 4 or 6 out. If the plant can run 6 at a time and finish a job in one sixth of the time of another job, this doesn’t necessarily mean the box will be 1/6 of the cost, but it will factor into the pricing certainly.


These factors do not necessarily need to determine your decisions, but they may help guide them and allow you to have the inside track on what exactly goes into the price you are being quoted.


Please Contact Us Today

As always, if you have any questions, one of our branded packaging advisors is standing by to assist, with decades of experience behind them. Want to know more about custom packaging options? Please call us at 630-551-1700 or contact us via email at


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