Featuring 77 tables and 56 figures – now available in Excel and Powerpoint! Learn More
Through 2026, demand for boxes in the US is forecast to increase 2.0% yearly from a high 2021 base to $49.9 billion, with volume demand reaching 31.9 million tons. Although the corrugated and paperboard box market in the US is mature, there are notable growth opportunities in nonmanufacturing applications such as e-commerce, foodservice, and delivery. In addition, suppliers will continue to introduce higher value boxes to the market in order to meet the sustainability and efficiency needs of their customers.
E-Commerce Will Provide the Best Opportunities for Corrugated Boxes
Demand for boxes in e-commerce applications will grow at a double-digit pace, the fastest rate of any market. 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.
Several e-commerce trends are expected to have a large impact on corrugated and paperboard box design and innovation, 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
Foodservice & Carryout Applications Will Bolster Demand for Folding Cartons
Rising use of multi-restaurant delivery platforms such as DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats – along with subsequent increased delivery and takeout options offered by restaurants themselves – will boost healthy gains in demand for folding cartons in foodservice and carryout applications. New municipal regulations and manufacturers’ efforts to reduce the amount of single-use plastics used in the foodservice segment will also benefit demand for folding cartons; however, cartons will continue to face some competition from single-use plastics due to consumer preferences for packaging that reduces the occurrence of food spills and leaks.
Better Aesthetics, Sustainability, & Advanced Features Support Use of Higher Value Boxes
Although they are essentially a commodity product, boxes are increasingly enhanced to improve their aesthetics and functionality:
Digital printing is increasingly used to add photo-quality images to both the interior and exterior of boxes in order to catch a customer’s eye, and graphics can be easily altered for short production runs or personalized packaging.
Concerns over the sustainability of boxes has led suppliers to continue to shift from wax coatings to higher cost water-based or biobased alternatives, which enhance moisture-resistance while enabling boxes to be recycled.
Boxes are increasingly being equipped with features such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) sensors, which help with inventory management and shipment tracking.
This report encompasses demand for and production of corrugated and paperboard boxes that are used by a number of markets in a variety of applications. Historical (2011, 2016, and 2021) data and forecasts t
2026 are presented in current dollars and tons. Product segments discussed include:
corrugated boxes (including solid fiber boxes)
regular slotted containers
full telescoping boxes
boxes with cut-outs for display purposes
open-top tray-style boxes
fold-over gift boxes
display-ready retail, or retail ready, boxes
standard boxes for shipping and e-commerce applications
folding paperboard boxes (als
as folding cartons)
set-up (rigid) paperboard boxes
Excluded from this study are products such as:
aseptic and gable top cartons
non folding sanitary paperboard food containers
non-box corrugated products (e.g., displays, pizza and cake circles, partitions and edge protectors)
paperboard backings of blister packaging
paperboard trays and related non-box foodservice items
Market segments discussed include:
food and beverages
grain mill products
meat, poultry, and seafood
candy and confections
other foods (e.g., snack foods, nuts, sauces and condiments, fats and oils, coffee and tea, infant foods, sweeteners, dry soups, spices and seasonings, other dry and powdered products)
nonfood nondurable goods
paper and publishing
rubber and plastics
cosmetics and toiletries
other nonfood nondurable goods (e.g., textiles and apparel, tobacco, petroleum products, leather products, tape, office supplies, photographic supplies)
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 (medical and analytical) and all other durable goods (e.g., photographic equipment, watches, clocks)
foodservice and carryout
moving, storage, and other nonmanufacturing markets (including boxes sold at the retail level)
Excluded from the market scope are large-scale, online business-to-business sales, such as bulk chemicals from a chemical producer to a motor vehicle parts manufacturer.
In addition, raw material consumption is provided by type:
protective coatings (wax and wax alternatives)