New Market Demands and Intelligent Solutions for Corrugated Packaging
Corrugated market growth is roughly 4% annually, and is expected to reach $300 billion in 2023. One factor driving the growth in both shipping cartons and product packaging is the increase in ecommerce retail sales; the estimate is 20% annual growth in ecommerce trade in Europe alone. Protecting products from damage during shipping is crucial for online retailers, so corrugated boxes deliver a robust and sustainable choice for brand owners.
Another factor is the growth in demand for packaged food and beverage products. As convenience leads lifestyle preferences, consumers prefer easy to open, easy to prepare, easy to consume product choices. It seems that packaged foods and beverages account for nearly half of the global corrugated market.
Other industries spurring the growth of corrugated box usage include electronics, personal and household care goods, glassware and ceramics, chemicals, and textile goods. “Manufacturers are also coming up with different shapes, sizes, and designs in order to increase their consumer-base,” according to digital agency Imarc.
Smithers Pira says ecommerce has given birth to a new phenomenon called FtP (fit-to-product). This technology enables the production of customized secondary packaging based on the exact size of the product being packed, including irregular shapes. For the end-user, this eliminates the need for large inventories of standard-sized boxes which often require copious amounts of filler material.
Sustainability is another factor. Corrugated materials are easy to recycle and reconstruct. Though they are lightweight, they are durable and protect their contents. This is important for products that ship, as well as those that sit on a store shelf.
Smithers Pira says that retail-ready packaging is a major cost saver, especially in Western Europe. “This ongoing profit pressure is providing an impetus to use more retail-ready formats as a labor-saving solution, as it is estimated that these secondary packaging formats can reduce shelf restocking and handling costs by up to 50%,” they report.
The reports also cite digital printing as a game changer because of its flexibility, cost savings, ability to personalize, and the advancement in quality.
What the reports don’t tell you
Online retailers are taking advantage of the sustainability, cost savings, and durability of corrugated packaging for one more reason. They now have new surfaces on which to advertise. If you are in a region where Amazon is popular, you know that when you receive your purchase, the shipping carton offers Prime deals and advertisements for the newest Amazon movies.
Marketers are also demanding faster turnaround. Marketers want to deliver products faster. Marketers need to change styles and color choices every two weeks. Marketers need to reduce costs. Marketers want head-turning color. Marketers want to be able to customize offers from one store location to another. And marketers need to satisfy consumer desire to protect the environment.
While the reports look at the most uses of corrugated boxes, the emphasis is on product packaging and shipping cartons. But point-of-purchase displays are one of the fastest growing applications for corrugated materials. For one thing, corrugated allows you to satisfy nearly all the marketers’ demands above, and most importantly it offers a means to turn consumers’ heads.
The problem is that traditional printing does not satisfy the speed-to-market needed. Working with recycled corrugated materials affects the output quality. Customization is impossible, and saving costs is a challenge.
The importance of digital print
Digital printing is essential to meet the demands of the growing market for corrugated boxes, packaging, and displays. This assessment is best told by two industry leaders: The Delta Group and Smurfit Kappa Group.
Based in London, The Delta Group provides innovative solutions for retailers, brands, and entertainment companies. Referring to digital printing, Martin Shipp, The Delta Group’s COO, says, “We can see how this is going to be a game changer for many sectors, not only ours. In an aggressive and reactive marketplace such as point-of-sale, quality, speed to market, and cost per copy are key factors,” he says. “The Nozomi from EFI (Booth 8233) came on top when we were looking at production speed, material handling options, ink type, speed to market, cost per copy, and format size.”
Dublin-based Smurfit Kappa Group also uses an EFI Nozomi single pass digital inkjet press. “Our ability to achieve high-quality print production in larger volumes with the Nozomi press will mean our customers can establish better supply chain strategies and be more creative by producing multiple designs — all of which can help our customers sell more products and reduce their time to market, while employing a leaner, more sustainable packaging program,” says Ignacio Sevillano, CEO Smurfit Kappa Spain, Portugal, and Morocco.
Another advantage of this press is that its output is certified for OCC recyclability and re-pulpability. This capability ensures that high-volume, single-pass, direct-to-board digital printing supports corrugated market’s well-established sustainability advantages.