Demand for corrugated and paperboard boxes in the U.S. is projected to increase 2.3 percent annually to $36.5 billion in 2016, boosted by an overall strengthening of the U.S. economy following the 2007-2009 recession. In particular, growth will benefit from expanded food, beverage and durable goods output, as well as from a rebound in construction spending, which will stimulate demand for goods and materials (and their related boxes) used in construction applications. Gains will also be helped by a trend toward more expensive boxes, such as corrugated boxes and folding cartons that offer high-quality graphics and printing.
Other value-added box types, such as those that are retail- or shelf-ready, are also expected to gain ground. Food and beverages, which accounted for 50 percent of total U.S. box demand in 2011, are the largest single box market. These and other trends are presented in Corrugated & Paperboard Boxes, a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland-based industry market research firm.
Corrugated and solid fiber box demand is forecast to climb 2.5 percent per year through 2016 to $26.1 billion, supported by a rebound in manufacturing activity and accelerated growth in consumer spending. In addition, corrugated and solid fiber box demand will be supported by their well-entrenched position as the shipping container of choice in a number of markets as a result of their cost-effectiveness, excellent protective performance and limited competition from other packaging alternatives.
Demand for folding paperboard boxes is expected to increase 1.7 percent per year to $9.8 billion in 2016, trailing the corrugated box pace as a result of strong competition from other packaging formats—mainly flexible packaging and mini-flute corrugated boxes. Source reduction efforts—such as the elimination or downsizing of secondary cartons—will also limit advances.
Nonetheless, gains will benefit from a rebound in nondurable goods output and continued use in many markets because of their low cost, functionality and ability to provide considerable billboard space for eyecatching graphics and printing. Set-up box demand will increase modestly due to inroads by less costly options like folding cartons and plastic containers, but will benefit from usage as upscale packaging for premium confectionery products and fragrances.