Paperboard Cartons Remain the Fastest Growing Shelf-Stable Packaging Format

Cleveland OH, June 14, 2022 – Paperboard aseptic and retort cartons will remain the fastest growing shelf-stable packaging product through 2026, finds a new Freedonia Group analysis. Demand will benefit from efforts to create products with easily recyclable barrier layers (in place of aluminum) and coatings.

Aseptic and retort cartons have superior barrier properties and offer a lightweight, resealable way to package shelf-stable food. Soups, juices, and milk are established markets used with cartons; however, cartons are increasingly used with a variety of shelf-stable liquid applications – such as processed vegetables and sauces. This is due to their premium and sustainable image, bolstered by their large billboard space, simple shape, and consumers’ perceived image of paperboard as more environmentally friendly than plastic.

Sustainability Concerns Continue to Drive Innovation

Sustainability is an issue for all food packaging, but especially for shelf-stable packaging products such as pouches and cartons, which are often made of composite materials and can be difficult to recycle. These issues are driving the development of improved barrier materials that are more easily recycled. Food waste also remains a primary concern among consumers and producers, leading to the increasing usage of high evacuation rate shelf-stable formats such as pouches and bag-in-box, as well as resealable options ¬– such as bottles and cartons – as opposed to traditional cans.

Want to Learn More?

Shelf-Stable Packaging, now available from The Freedonia Group, presents historical data (2011, 2016, 2019, 2020, and 2021) and forecasts for 2022 and 2026 for demand for shelf-stable food packaging in current dollars (including inflation) and in units by technology, product, application, and material.


  • aseptic
  • hot fill
  • retort


  • metal cans
  • bottles
  • jars
  • cartons
  • pouches
  • cups and lidding
  • bag-in-box
  • other packaging (e.g., trays, bowls, tubs, pails)


  • sauces and condiments
  • processed fruits and vegetables, including cooked dried beans
  • prepared foods
  • juice (e.g., fruit juice, nectar and concentrates, vegetable juice)
  • dairy food
  • meat, poultry, and seafood (excluding meat alternatives)
  • milk and nondairy milk alternatives
  • other shelf-stables foods (e.g., meal replacements and protein shakes, baby food and formula, tofu, syrups and sweeteners)


  • plastic
  • metal
  • paperboard
  • glass