Packaging's Road Map of Progress: Folding Cartons
Sophistication in the design and function of folding cartons has advanced “light years from 20 years ago,” says Sandra Krasovec, professor/program coordinator, Packaging Design BFA, Fashion Institute of Technology, as she recites a litany of consumer-friendly innovations: single-serve packages for pasta and other dry foods; fitments for pouring, scooping, and measuring; and features that give cartons a “second life” of usefulness (for example, as storage containers) after the product is gone.
Design ingenuity can turn packages into extensions of their products, Krasovec points out. Think of “coloring books” printed on the inner surfaces of breakfast cereal packages; or of cartons that serve as play environments for the toy action figures inside them.
Imaginatively styled folding cartons are also key props in unboxing, a popular phenomenon in which people narrate and record their experiences of removing things from boxed shipments they’ve ordered via e-commerce. They then post the videos to sharing sites like YouTube.
Driving new applications for folding cartons are major improvements in the performance of substrates, Krasovec says. New coating technologies give cardboard containers greater resistance to temperature and moisture, enabling them to extend the shelf life of perishable foods. Substrates for aseptic (sterile) packaging make it possible to store almond milk and other beverages without refrigeration.
Decorative advancements are giving folding cartons new appeal as options for premium packaging. Krasovec says, for example, that matte and gloss varnishes can impart a luxury look to uncoated stocks that once wouldn’t have been considered suitable as carton material for high-end goods such as candy and liquor. Foil stamping and other finishing techniques enhance visual appeal, although they sometimes complicate recycling.
Krasovec salutes printers and converters who use paperboard “in the smartest way” by creating dielines that permit gang-running for maximum efficiency. She says that although brands favor folding cartons for their abundant printable “real estate” and the strong impressions they make on the shelf, good looks alone aren’t enough.
Cartons have to be designed and manufactured for economic benefit across the entire supply chain, Krasovec maintains; it is never right to conceive a package “in an isolated, one-off perspective.”
Particularly important to integrate into the design of a carton is sustainability, which can be achieved by asking questions such as, “Do we really need that clear plastic window?” Designers also should ask whether the package is using the smallest number of necessary materials and the least amounts of those materials; and how the package will present information that lets consumers know how to recycle it.