Five key new markets for folding cartons

Five key new markets for folding cartons
In 2019 total value of folding carton packaging will reach $115.4 billion, with over 47.5 million tonnes of material converted. New expert forecasting for the market study – The Future of Folding Cartons to 2024 – shows that this value will rise to $145.9 billion and 59.3 million tonnes in 2024. This is equivalent to a global compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8% by value and 5.3% by volume; which reflects an acceleration of demand compared to the preceding five years.

This is positive news for the whole supply chain. To capitalise fully will require cartonboard manufacturers and converters to explore and exploit the following five key opportunities.

Sustainability in packaging

Fibre-based packaging, such as folding cartons, enjoys superior green credentials over many alternative packaging materials – principally plastics. This is increasing opportunities for cartonboard to replace or reduce the use of plastic packs in many end use sectors. These include:
  • Replacing thermoformed foamed polystyrene (PS) clamshells, and similar formats in foodservice applications
  • Replacing other rigid polymers in retail food packaging
  • Replacing plastic blister packs and interior retaining structures for pharmaceuticals, such as pills, and medical devices.
Sustainability is also having an internal influence on the material construction of carton stock. Brands and retailers keen to promote themselves as green businesses are calling for grades with more recycled pulp. In particular coated recycled carton grades will see the fastest rise in demand across the five-year Smithers forecast period.

Recyclable barriers

As noted above, food packs are the largest opportunity, but the green credentials of cartonboard can be compromised as many current functional and barrier coatings compromise the recyclability of the carton stock. Market demand for such coatings in all paperboard packaging exceeded 3 million tonnes in 2018, with North America and Western Europe accounting for half the total volume.

Many cartonboard producers are developing or have developed specific cartonboard grades with barrier coatings to target this potential.

To boost sustainability here is an ongoing trend to change from solvent-based to water-based coatings to reduce the emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Simultaneously use of biopolymer will erode the petroleum-based polymer coatings market, but there is still significant commercialisation work to bring these to a mass market.

Elsewhere wax coatings are giving way to hydrogenated tallow diglyceride, which is commercially available.
More generally, improved coating technologies are providing greater efficiencies and cost-effectiveness in coating processes – and also reducing overall material consumption.

Premium solutions

There is already increased demand for high-quality cartonboard grades used in packaging top-end lines of confectionery, premium spirits, and cosmetics.

A key requirement is to have grades that are optimized for the necessary decorative techniques employed for these products. These include superior printing technologies, often gravure; and specialised finishing techniques, such as embossing, and adding holographic films.

Contrasting the trend for more recycled content, premium cartonboards are generally made from virgin fibres to further enhance both the performance and aesthetics of the board – such as brightness and tactile feeling.

Recent product launches in this field include:
  • MetsäBoard Prime FBB
  • WestRock Crescendo C1S/C2S
  • BillerudKorsnäs White
  • Stora Enso Performa Brilliance

More scope for lightweighting

Lighter weight boards are a simple solution to reduce costs and have a positive environmental ripple effect down the supply chain, from production to transportation and ultimately waste management. Downgauging needs to be balanced against the board’s performance however, but incremental improvements are being made that do not compromise aesthetics, product protection or cost.

Lightweighting is of course also governed by the laws of physics and there will clearly be a point at which no additional refinements are possible, but that point has not yet been reached. Hence this trend is expected to continue over the short term, with some impact of course on total board production volumes, measured in tonnes. In contrast in the current market these lighter weight products can carry a slight price premium, thus retaining market value for the industry.

E-commerce shipping

Cartonboard – mainly micro-flute formats – are already widely used in the booming e-commerce segment. The growth of e-commerce is now leading to the investment in stronger designs and board grades optimized to give the extra protection needed by the increased handling involved in its distribution network.

New business models in e-commerce are opening the potential for specific cartonboard designs. These include:
  • Meal kits formats, especially in the US,
  • Subscription commerce (subcom), has a varied market place ranging from dog food to cosmetics
  • Consumer electronics sellers, and smartphone manufacturers in particular.
The market potential of each of these trends is explored in the Future of Folding Cartons to 2024. This strategic insight is combined with a comprehensive market dataset – with over 280 data tables and figures – to provide an unparalleled level of granularity on future market growth.

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