Folding carton packaging market set to boom to $172 billion in 2026

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LEATHERHEAD, Surrey, UK and AKRON, Ohio, USA – June 15, 2020 – The global market for folding cartons will be $136.7 billion in 2021, and as the market recovers from COVID-19 disruption global demand will reach $172.0 billion in 2026.

An exclusive new market data study available for purchase now from Smithers – The Future of the Global Folding Carton Market to 2026 – shows that the COVID-19 pandemic slowed, but did not reverse the rising demand for more cartonboard packaging witnessed across the 2010s. Converted carton volumes rose marginally from 48.00 million tonnes in 2019 to 48.30 million tonnes in 2020; and are forecast to rise further to 61.58 million tonnes in 2026. 

Production volumes rose by just 1.6% in 2019-2020 and conversion volumes increased by less than 1% during the year. Total cartonboard production – materials sold to converters – will be a projected $46.28 billion in 2021, based on Smithers’ latest price estimations.

As the threat of the pandemic recedes folding carton packs will increase by 2% for 2020-2021, before recovering to a 4.6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through to 2026. The demand for new volumes will be led by Asia, while the North American and mature European markets will see some loss of market share.
The pandemic has affected end-user consumption of folding carton packaging in varying degrees with different sectors exhibiting a range of recovery rates. Soft drinks volumes have seen the greatest decline in the past year, while for dry foods folding cartons enjoyed good growth in 2020. Medium term consumption is expected to show the highest growth rates in the confectionery and dry foods sectors.

As this happens multiple drivers will help redefine the market proposition for cartonboard:

  • Sustainability will encourage wider use in some segments, as consumer, retailer and brand owner concerns over the environment lead to substitution of plastic materials. This is also seeing more interest in recycled grades, with the nascent market for uncoated recycled board (URB) seeing the fastest growth over the Smithers forecast period.
    This will be supported by legislation in many jurisdictions, and places an emphasis on the evolution of sustainable barrier technologies, especially for food-contact applications, like fresh produce trays.
  • E-commerce has become a focus for many retailers in 2020, with online sales rising by 25% over the year, even as overall retail sales fell by 3%. This is particularly focusing attention on microflute formats that can be litho laminated to exteriors of corrugated e-commerce delivery packs.
  • Over 2021-2026 there will be wider use of digital printing (inkjet and electrophotography) systems, with higher speed presses to provide quick turnaround and variable data print to complement existing higher throughput analogue presses.
  • In the short term there has also been the design challenge for folding carton converters to develop new pack formats for pharmaceuticals and other COVID-19 supplies, such as home test kits. With more online sales and trade in more sensitive goods there will be an increased use of tamper-evidence and other security packaging features though to 2026.
  • Geographic shifts are being reflected in converting capacities, even as the paper segment looks to adjust to a post-COVID world. In 2018-2020 Smithers estimates nearly 3 million tonnes of new cartonboard manufacturing capacity came on stream, although this was offset by the closure of over 2.2 million tonnes. The new machines installed over this period included over 2.4 million tonnes of additional capacity in China.

Published today, The Future of the Global Folding Carton Market to 2026 examines the immediate post-COVID and future market in unprecedented detail. Comprehensive historical and forecast data is given for cartonboard and converted folding cartons, by value and volume – presented in over 300 data tables and figures.

This is segmented by board grade, end-use application, geographic and national market; including data on major mill and converter market shares, to produce an authoritative business forecasting tool as the industry enters the 2020s.

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Source: Smithers