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Global Paper-Based Containers: Current Packaging Trends and Opportunities

August 2017

Following some years of falling sales, paper-based containers show a return to growth, led by folding carton performance. The carton’s ability to target both value and premium product positioning ensures its presence in all regions and across a wide range of industries. Food applications will lead the way for paper-based container usage, driven by good performance within sweet biscuits, fruit snacks and snack bars, and savoury snacks, where there is rising demand for value and premium variants.

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Paper-based containers’ volume rises

In 2016 the packaging volume of global retail paper-based containers reached 236 billion units, marking 1.2% growth from 2015, driven by a rise in consumption in all regions but North America.

Folding cartons profit from staples and premium products

Folding cartons holds the lion share of paper-based container volumes, with 85% of global volume. While basic products such as rice, tea, bar soap and toothpaste will hold the majority of volumes, premium snacks and alcoholic drinks are set to be the main categories driving growth. Furthermore, despite holding much lower volumes than the latter, composite containers and bag-in-box are also expected to drive up growth of paper-based containers through snacks and wine, respectively.

Asia-Pacific and Latin America shape future potential

Despite holding the largest volumes for paper-based containers, China, India and Brazil are also forecast to be strong contributors to onward growth. This is because while there is still demand for staple products such as rice, soap and toothpaste from countries’ rural areas, the improved purchased power in urban areas ensures that demand for premium products such as snacks and dishwashing powder also grows.

Health and on-the-go trends key drivers for packaged food

Snacking on the go will remain one the main trends shaping the global food industry. Folding cartons’ ability to cater to any pack size and pricing strategy, and composite containers’ strong demand in savoury snacks, will profit from such trends. Board tubs, meanwhile, are set to suffer as demand for instant noodles and sugary ice creams falls.

Pack type competition is fierce, led by flexible packaging

Flexible packaging is paper-based containers’ main competitor across all industries. This is because flexible packaging lends itself to a vast array of product categories due to its ability to cater to both wet and dry food.


Key findings

Global Overview

Folding carton, the king of paper-based containers
Foods in emerging regions and Western Europe fuel carton growth
Paper faces competition from flexibles across the board

Food and Drink Opportunities

Folding cartons lead volume growth, led by strong snack demand
Folding cartons overshadowed by flexibles throughout confectionery
Folding carton in gum uses design and printing to fight flexibles
Sugar war hurts folding cartons’ volume growth in chocolate…
… while premiumisation increases value growth
Asia and Africa are key for cartons’ growth in sweet biscuits
Case study: Positioning healthy biscuits as an on-the-go breakfast
Folding cartons profit from stacked breakfast biscuits on-the-go
Traditional tea countries retain size, but non-traditional lead growth
Everyday and premium black tea drive folding carton volume growth
Premiumisation steers cartons’ growth in spirits and wine
Super-premium spirits and wine shine with metallic embossed design
Snacking on-the-go profits all carton pack types in savoury
Convenience to eat at any time drives carton sales in baked goods
Calorie cap downsizes ice creams and restores paper growth

Beauty and Home Care Opportunities

Carton heads up volumes in beauty, home care and pet food
Folding carton volumes suffer in bar soap as substitutes grow
Strong demand for liquid soap/gel in China causes bar soap to fall
Cartons benefit from premium bar soap growth in India and Brazil
Carton buoyed by greater toothpaste penetration in emerging regions
Multi-use spray insecticides threaten folding cartons’ growth
Flexible plastic supremacy in powder detergent challenges cartons

Growth Prospects



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