Clamshell Packaging

Clamshell packaging is a common product packaging design that features a folded piece of clear plastic (or two pieces) with fused edges and molded or stamped faces. Clamshell packaging is one of the most widely used packaging designs in retail contexts, though it can be impractical in the distribution of industrial or commercial products in large numbers.

Small quantities of consumer products like light bulbs, batteries, toys, small electronics, automotive supplies, cleaning supplies, videos and many other products are packaged in clamshell packaging. Clamshell packaging became popular with manufacturers because it solves many of the challenges presented by the shipping, distribution and sale of consumer products.

Clamshell packaging is inexpensive and effective. It is lightweight yet durable, so it saves on shipping costs without compromising the safe transportation of products. The plastic faces of clamshell packaging can be easily molded to fit around the contours of the products they contain, which makes the package’s contents easily visible to consumers. Once placed on retail center shelves, clamshell packages are theft-resistant; most clamshell plastic is too durable to be damaged by hand, and fused clamshell edges often cannot be opened without sharp tools.

Assemblies Unlimited Inc. Clam with decorative seal
Clamshell Packaging – Assemblies Unlimited Inc.

Clamshell packaging is designed using a molding or stamping process. Manufacturers can choose between two designs. When two pieces of plastic are used, one or both pieces are either molded to fit the contours of the product or stamped with a shape that provides enough clearance for the product. After being shaped, the two pieces are fused together at the edges. When one piece is used, a long strip of plastic is molded or stamped on one or both ends of the strip and then bent at or near its middle.

The edges are then fused together, except at the fold, which becomes a hinge. While clamshell packaging has proved to be an excellent packaging solution for manufacturers, it has inspired headlines for how difficult it can be for consumers to open. In 2007, the American Dialect Society listed “Wrap Rage,” the emotional experience of trying to open clamshell packaging, as one of the most useful new terms of the year.

Consumer Reports, a popular magazine that reviews consumer products, began awarding hard-to-open products packaged in clamshells with “Oyster Awards” in 2006. The American Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated that in 2004, more than 6,000 people required hospitalization after trying to open clamshell-packaged products; the risk of hospitalization may deter some consumers from purchasing products packaged in clamshells.

Clamshell Packaging Informational Video