E-Commerce Will Provide the Best Opportunities for Corrugated Boxes Through 2026

Cleveland OH, March 18, 2022 – Demand for boxes in e-commerce applications will grow at a double-digit pace to over $3 billion in 2026, the fastest rate of any market, finds a new Freedonia Group analysis:

  • E-commerce continues to account for an increasing share of retail sales, a trend that accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic when more people took advantage of these services to stay at home.
  • Corrugated boxes will account for nearly all demand in this market due to their predominance as shipping containers.

Ongoing Expansion of E-Commerce to Fuel Gains

Fueling demand gains for e-commerce boxes will be the ongoing rapid and widespread expansion of US e-commerce sales, which the analysis projects to grow 9.0% annually through 2026. The massive size of this market means that gains will be substantial, and although online sales have advanced rapidly, they still account for only a small share of overall retail activity.

E-Commerce Trends Affecting Growth Outlook

Several e-commerce trends are expected to have a large impact on corrugated and paperboard box design and innovation through 2026, including:

  • direct-to-consumer shipments, which will boost demand for primary packaging that can also act as a shipping container
  • right-sizing of packaging, which will act to limit the volume of packaging used

The proliferation of subscription services, which commonly use boxes with high-quality graphics for maximum engagement with consumers, is expected to boost e-commerce market growth through 2026.  Additionally, a growing shift toward using high-value boxes that meet companies’ and organizations’ requirements for boxes able to withstand the rigors of the e-commerce supply chain will bolster gains.

However, concerns over high levels of packaging and shipping container waste will continue to affect its growth potential.

Want to Learn More?

Corrugated & Paperboard Boxes is now available from The Freedonia Group. This report encompasses demand for and production of corrugated and paperboard boxes. Historical (2011, 2016, and 2021) data and forecasts to 2026 are presented in current dollars and tons by product, market, and material.


  • corrugated boxes (including solid fiber boxes)
  • folding paperboard boxes (also referred to as folding cartons)
  • set-up (rigid) paperboard boxes

Markets (segments)

  • food and beverage (grain mill products; meat, poultry, and seafood; beverages; fresh produce; frozen foods; bakery products; canned foods; dairy products; candy and confections; other foods)
  • nonfood nondurable goods (paper and publishing; rubber and plastics; pharmaceuticals; chemical products; cosmetics and toiletries; other nonfood nondurable goods)
  • durable goods (machinery and equipment; glass and ceramic products; fabricated metal products; furniture, lumber, and wood products; toys and sporting goods; silverware and jewelry; motor vehicle parts; music, entertainment, and software; instruments; all other durable goods)
  • nonmanufacturing (foodservice and carryout; e-commerce; moving, storage, and other nonmanufacturing markets)


  • paperboard (unbleached kraft; recycled; semichemical; bleached kraft)
  • adhesives
  • protective coatings (wax; wax alternatives)
  • inks