The latest data for the global container board and corrugated packaging market shows that consumption of the latter will reach 160.5 million tonnes in 2020, with a value of $170.7 billion.
Expert analysis in the Smithers report – The Future of Global Corrugated Board Packaging to 2025 forecasts that global corrugated board will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.8% across 2020-2025 to reach $205.7 billion. The volume of board consumed worldwide will increase at a slightly slower rate to reach 193.2 million tonnes in that year.
The Smithers study tracks micro and macro trends in this industry for 2015-2025. This is segmented across for six corrugated grades – unbleached kraftliner (UBKL), white-top kraftliner (WTKL), unbleached testliner (UBTL), white-top testliner (WTTL), semi-chemical fluting (SCF), waste-based fluting (WBF); 15 end-use applications; and 63 countries and world regions.
The Covid-19 pandemic will see a marked impact on corrugated consumption in certain sectors and regions, especially those worst affected by the virus. In terms of end-uses food shipments will be least affected while other consumer items will see a more significant drop.
These will be mitigated in developed regions by the strong increase in e-commerce as stay-at-home consumers undertake more online shopping. Several board converters have developed e-commerce specific delivery designs to capitalise on this, accentuating what the industry has already identified as a key growth segment.
In the longer term Smithers analysis identifies the following major business trends that will support further use of corrugated board packaging.
- Recycling and sustainability will remain a key concern for converters and brand owners; but oversupply of materials is liable to generate new price pressures
- Demand for finer flute grades for high-quality printed cases and as alternatives to folding cartons will rise
- Further pressure for lightweighting of corrugated designs will have a negative impact on volume sales as less fibre delivers an equivalent required performance
- E-commerce will continue to expand, even once lockdown (shelter-in-place) orders have been revoked; this will generate new need for white-top liner that can receive
- high-quality print graphics in particular
- Dimensional (DIM) weighing in packaging, and the focus on minimising extraneous protective components will slow some of the expanded use of corrugated in direct-to-consumer e-commerce shipping
- There will be more use of retail-ready packaging formats, as more modern retailing expands into developing markets in Asia and elsewhere
- Digital (inkjet) printing will increase overall demand for better quality substrates and expand the options for packaging printers in both standard and RRP corrugated formats
- New coating technologies, including bio-based polymer solutions will help improve the recyclability of coated corrugated grades
- Industry consolidation will continue leading to greater concentration of capacities and more uniformity for users.
These trends and the essential technologies that will help make them a reality over the next five years are examined in depth in the Smithers study. They are used to provide context to the wider picture of the industry across 2015-2025 given in the Smithers data set, with over 350 data tables and figures. Combined these provide an unparalleled level of insight into current and future demand for containerboard and corrugated packaging.