Folding Cartons Offer an Industry of Stability and Opportunity
The packaging and printing industries are in a constant state of evolution, with a great deal of attention on how printers and converters can adapt to change. But in the folding cartons segment of the packaging industry, a pillar of consistency has emerged.
Shipment figures have not experienced much fluctuation and while flexible packaging’s growth has led to increased competition, it’s not enough to emphatically sound any alarms. However, while stability and consistency certainly provide a level of comfort for the folding carton packaging industry outlook, evolving brand owner and consumer trends should be top of mind in all folding carton manufacturing facilities.
In packagePRINTING’s 2017 State of the Industry report on the folding carton segment of the packaging industry, several of these opportunities are outlined. This includes how folding carton converters can adapt to the rising consumer demand for individually packaged or single-serve items. It includes how decorative techniques can be implemented on packaging materials to create sleek luxury packaging for brands. It includes projections on the potential for folding cartons to join the Internet of Things. And it includes the latest on how digital printing can take folding cartons into exciting and uncharted territory.
This article, reported and written by veteran industry journalist Patrick Henry, explains why demand for folding cartons is increasing in pharmaceutical, supplement and consumer electronics markets. It reveals how certain brands implement folding cartons to entice a consumer’s perception of luxury and why 2018 is poised to be a “watershed year” for digital printing in folding cartons.
Packaging Industry Trends: Then and Now
In 2016, the Paperboard Packaging Council (PPC) provided packagePRINTING with a similar State of the Industry article discussing that year’s trends and projections for the future. In it, the PPC wrote that folding cartons that become attractive brand ambassadors will be the ones that lead to sales. This report explained that while folding cartons will still need to maintain their basic functions of product protection and shipping, many successful cartons are becoming marketing tools for brands.
This trend has persisted into 2017, and in this year’s State of the Industry Report, details on some of the latest embellishment technologies — including digital embellishments — and materials are outlined, providing printers and converters with information on how they can make their folding cartons stand out at the retail level.
Comparing the 2016 and 2017 reports reveals that digital printing has been a major topic in the folding carton segment and has expanded its reach over the past couple years. The 2016 report from the PPC highlighted a Technical & Production workshop hosted by the association that asked participants about their usage of digital. The article states that these converters indicated digital technology was opening them up to new business opportunities, as well as providing new packaging options for existing customers.
These opportunities are continuing to expand as over the past year, more digital technology for folding cartons has begun to hit the market or will in the future. While the majority of digital folding carton presses that have hit the market are of the 29˝ variety, the 2017 State of the Industry report explains that full-size inkjet systems are on the horizon, and could quickly make a major impact on the market.
Are Threats to Folding Cartons Real?
But as digital technology becomes increasingly prevalent throughout the printing industry, the barrier to entry for commercial printers into the folding carton world is diminishing.
While the folding carton market has historically been an enticing entry point into packaging for commercial printers due to both industries largely utilizing offset printing, the rise of digital has made for an even easier path. Many production level digital presses that are geared toward commercial printers can also produce high-quality printing on carton stock.
Though this may seem to be a scary new reality for folding carton converters, this State of the Industry report explains why traditional carton printers maintain a distinct advantage over any newcomers to the segment — primarily due to their ingrained knowledge of finishing processes and ability to complete them in house.
Despite some of the changes and new technologies impacting the folding carton segment, it appears that cartons are poised to remain as a bastion of stability in an otherwise evolving industry. Even with the rise of digital, offset presses will continue to churn out the vast majority of folding cartons found on store shelves. And while the flexible packaging industry is providing new opportunities for brand owners who once relied on folding cartons, carton converters can maintain a competitive advantage through luxurious packaging embellishments, coatings and branding opportunities.
Though consistency and stability are certainly positive descriptors for any industry, in order to truly thrive, converters need to be aware of the latest industry trends and how they can best use them to their advantage.