Economic expansion fuels corrugated demand

by MM&D Online Staff

Corrugated and paperboard box demand in the US is forecast to increase 2.6 percent per year to $39.4 billion in 2018, improving from the performance of the recession-impacted 2008-2013 period. Gains will be driven by a rebound in manufacturing output and continued expansion of the overall economy.

According to analyst Esther Palevsky of the Freedonia Group, “Growth will also benefit from heightened demand for value added box types such as those that feature high quality graphics and printing or are constructed in display-ready form.”

Moreover, as the US becomes more attractive for production, the trend of “reshoring” or “onshoring” of some manufacturing activity will counter the outsourcing of production to low labor cost regions that has restricted growth for the box industry in recent decades. 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 will expand more rapidly than that for folding cartons and set-up boxes, advancing 3.1 percent annually to $29.0 billion in 2018. Growth will be fueled by the recovery in the manufacturing sector, especially in the output of food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, and other nondurables.

Other factors include an improved outlook for consumer spending, a rebound in construction activity, and continued rapid growth for online shopping. Box production volume will rebound from declines of the past decade but will be moderated by the increased presence of lighter weight containerboard and pressures to reduce excess packaging.

Folding carton demand is projected to increase 1.4 percent per year to $9.9 billion in 2018, an improvement from the 2008-2013 performance but held back by competition from other packaging formats—particularly flexible packaging.

Still, prospects will benefit from the rebound in nondurable goods output, expanded opportunities in carryout food applications, and paper-based packaging’s appeal as part of sustainability efforts.

Set-up box demand will also see relatively slow increases based on competition from less costly alternatives such as folding cartons and plastic containers. Ongoing demand will be helped by an improved outlook for discretionary spending and set-up boxes’ entrenched position as upscale packaging for premium confectionery products and fragrances.


Annual Growth
 $ Million %%
Corrugated & Paperboard Box Demand3263534650394001.22.6
Corrugated & Solid Fiber Boxes2323524940290101.43.1
Folding Paperboard Boxes8900923098800.71.4
Set-Up Paperboard Boxes500480510-0.81.2