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Four Technology Advances Reshaping the Folding Cartons Market

New print technologies, anti-counterfeiting safeguards, and barrier coatings that meet food safety issues, are a few of these developments.

As demand for this kind of packaging continues to rise, technological developments and impending regulatory changes are driving the carton board packaging market in new directions.

The value of the global carton board packing market reached the $100 billion mark in 2016, using more than 40.3 million tonnes (44 million tons) of material in folding carton and micro/miniflute packaging applications, according to Smithers Pira report, "The Future of Folding Cartons to 2022." A combination of market factors will cause the demand for carton board in packaging to rise by 4% yearly until 2022, when the industry will be worth $124.1 billion worldwide.

According to the global survey, the Asia-Pacific area made up roughly 58% of the overall volume in 2016, followed by Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), which contributed 24%, and the Americas, which contributed the remaining 18%. 36% of the total volume was consumed by China alone in 2016. By 2022, the area is predicted to maintain its dominance and hold a 63% market share, with China accounting for more than 40% of the anticipated volume of more than 50 million tonnes (55 million tons).

Smithers Pira's analysis identifies four significant technological developments that are supporting market growth over the coming five years:

  • Packaging made from new and inventive materials is environmentally beneficial.

  • Product shelf appeal and print turnaround have improved thanks to advances in printing technology.

  • New opportunities for value-adding are being created by security and anti-counterfeiting measures, including RFID technology.

  • The creation of coated folding carton grades to meet ongoing food safety concerns

Innovative materials

The market is being pushed toward eco-friendly materials by environmental concerns from companies and consumers, in addition to small improvements in lightweight board grades and the addition of recycled paper content.

As a result, unconventional non-wood pulp materials such as edamame beans, waste hazelnuts, and cocoa beans are now being used. Although Edamame is a popular Asian soybean that is frequently served as an appetizer, it is not a common vegetable for the ordinary Western palate. The edamame beans' edible portion emerges from their pod, and the leftovers are normally discarded. However, the pods are recycled to create soy packaging that will eventually hold the edamame snack rather than being disposed of as waste.

Hazelnut and cocoa bean peels left over from making Ferrero's confections have been used in a partnership between the Italian company and Stora Enso to create EcoPaper. The center layer of a triplex folding box board has this waste material added after it has been transformed using a dry milling procedure.

Emerging printing techniques

The need for brand owners to boost product shelf appeal has prompted converters to continuously update and improve printing technologies and procedures. To meet brand owners' requests, more colors and a greater variety of finishes are needed, which has prompted a move toward plain folding cartons because these boards allow better printing and finishing.

As the economics and productivity of a new generation of printers made specifically for packaging work increase its competitiveness against analog processes, digital printing (ink-jet and toner) is becoming more and more common. With their improved automation, reduced waste, and quick makeready times, digital printers benefit from packaging buyers' requests for shorter run lengths and quicker response times.

These requirements helped spur the development of numerous short-run technologies, such as digital, analog, and hybrid solutions that combine analog and digital, which were unveiled during Drupa 2016.

Specialty inks and coatings, such as satin, matte, and gloss printing as well as sensory coatings, are becoming more popular because of brand owners' demands for exceptional graphics. Others are capitalizing on the "interactive" trend by offering coatings that change color, reticulate, and smell. Users who prefer a more natural look and feel are becoming more and more interested in uncoated carton boards.


A recent study estimates that in 2015, the top 10 global black markets were worth $577 billion, with 40% of this value coming from product counterfeiting.

The risks to end users are evident, and legislation is being implemented globally to permit item-level tracking, which is of particular concern to the pharmaceutical industry. Wide-ranging EU Falsified Medicines Directive 2011/62/EU has gone into effect in 2018, and the necessary investments throughout the supply chain were already well under way. Even though the printing of folding cartons with a unique identifier—a 2D data matrix code as well as a tamper evidence fixture—being required will be impacted, this may not directly affect the demand for carton board.

There are few opportunities for RFID technology to be integrated during the papermaking process, mostly because of the location issue. However, with items like Schreiner's printed RFID sensor platform, developments in RFID labels continue. This makes it possible to print labels containing an electronic Near Field Communication (NFC) antenna along with a temperature sensor and a first-opening sensor. The technology connects to a smartphone and measures and records the label's temperature over its lifetime while also detecting whether it has been opened or tampered with.

According to Smithers Pira forecasts, the market for security and anti-counterfeit packaging will increase significantly over the next few years, from a value of over $2.75 billion in 2015 to over $3.5 billion by 2022.

Barrier Coatings

A variety of coatings for folding cartons have been developed to stop the entry and absorption of unfavorable pollutants into food goods. This development has been sparked in part by the 2011 mineral oil contamination scandals.

With the leading technology generated by Mayr-Melnhof, whose FoodBoard was first made commercially available in 2015 from its Frohnleiten mill, a variety of goods are currently on the market. This product, along with others, acts as a barrier between you and potentially harmful substances and safeguards you against contamination from sources including printing inks and outer packaging.

The industry has and is responding to the need for barrier coatings in a variety of ways, such as better curtain coating methods at the paper mill, water-based coatings applied by converters, and more recently, the use of nanotechnology to build thinner barriers.

Folding cartons for the frozen and refrigerated food markets are produced using the majority of barrier coating materials. By 2022, the market's total value, which was at $420 million in 2015, is anticipated to have increased to more than $575 million.

In line with the environmental perspectives, efforts are being made to create more environmentally friendly coatings that do not contaminate recycled pulp, which could prevent their conversion into a new generation of folding cartons or other packaging.

This is being done as new options emerge, such as the use of paper-based alternatives to expanded polystyrene foodservice ware.

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