Demand for corrugated boxes used to package fresh produce is projected to increase 3.3% per year to $2.4 billion in 2024, according to a new Freedonia Group analysis. Increased use of value-added boxes, such as those with retail-ready features designed to reduce labor costs, will remain a key growth driver:
- Despite competition from RPCs, retail-ready corrugated boxes will continue to see strong gains in fresh produce applications due to their low cost and ability to be printed with high-quality graphics.
- Corrugated boxes – particularly Corrugated Common Footprint (CCF) boxes – account for the majority of retail-ready produce packaging demand because they are well established, easily recycled, and retailers accept them as efficient, one-way shipping solutions.
While retail-ready boxes are expected to register strong advances, other box types will continue to see their market share encroached upon by reusable plastic containers (RPCs), which are increasingly used by Walmart and other grocers both in logistical applications and retail display areas.
Retail-Ready Produce Box Demand to Grow 6.4% Annually Through 2024
The Freedonia Group analysis forecasts demand for retail-ready corrugated boxes used for produce applications to increase 6.4% per year through 2024, with advances supported by:
- the growing number of fruits and vegetables that are packaged in retail-ready formats
- ongoing shifts in the product mix favoring higher value, better quality packaging with more appealing aesthetics
Produce boxes have used graphics and quality printing for branding purposes, but additional functionalities are increasingly being built into box designs, such as tray-style boxes designed to hold smaller clamshells of berries or other fragile items. These trays are designed to go from a produce walk-in to the display case in very little time with a minimum of effort while helping to keep the produce area – one of the most labor-intensive portions of a supermarket – neat, organized, and attractive.
The fastest growth for retail-ready corrugated box demand is expected in applications where use of modular boxes for prepackaged produce is rapidly rising, especially:
- apples, citrus, and grapes, among fruit applications
- tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, onions, and smaller volume vegetables such as sweet potatoes, among vegetable applications
Grow Local Movements Aid Growth for Other Produce Boxes
Growth for all other corrugated boxes in produce applications – including open-top tray-style boxes, bulk bins, and shipping boxes – will be well below the growth expected for retail ready versions of corrugated boxes, and for produce packaging overall through 2024. This will be due in part to the increased use of RPCs, which have made inroads as shipping and display containers for fresh produce sold at Walmart and other large grocery chains.
Nevertheless, a number of factors will support growth in other produce box demand through 2024, including:
- the well-established position of corrugated boxes in the shipping, distribution, and bulk storage of produce
- expanding use of higher value moisture-resistant recyclable boxes (e.g., boxes treated with biodegradable coatings)
The increasing popularity of locally grown produce in retail establishments will also contribute to growth, as boxes are more likely to be used in these applications:
- Despite relatively stable consumer interest, sales of locally sourced food are expected to grow – reaching $20 billion by 2019 per Packaged Facts – as supply continues to expand.
- As locally grown produce sales increase across all distribution channels, packaging that facilitates distribution or that reinforces consumers’ perception of these items as fresh, healthful, and environmentally friendly will benefit.
- Bulk bins and corrugated boxes, for example, are popular for farmers’ and public markets because they connote freshness and allow customers to select their own produce.
Sustainability Initiatives a Key Factor in Produce Box Demand Growth
Produce box demand has long benefited from a favorable environmental image, in part because of the generally favorable perception of paper and paperboard products as sustainable options, especially when compared to single-use plastics. Additionally, corrugated boxes have one of the most established recycling systems. Corrugated boxes that do not leave retail premises are recycled at a very high rate, and old corrugated boxes are one of the primary sources of fiber used in the production of new boxes.
Produce box suppliers are further improving the sustainability of their products by introducing wax-free coated boxes and using water-based inks.
Want to Learn More?
Fresh Produce Corrugated Boxes is now available from the Freedonia Group.
About the Author:
Peter Kusnic is a Content Writer with The Freedonia Group, where he researches and writes studies focused on an array of industries.