Corrugated Market Forecasts: Analysts Report E-Commerce, Environmental Consciousness Will Fuel Growth

Exponential growth, attributable to e-commerce, is propelling the corrugated packaging industry forward. When combined with ever-more-stringent environmental regulations, corrugated print’s cost/benefit profile becomes more and more attractive.

How attractive? So much so that a trio of industry analysts—Smithers Pira, Mordor Intelligence and SpendEdge—all see no stop in momentum through 2024.

Their collective evaluations have charted compound annual growth rates (CAGR) in excess of 3.5 percent for the next five years, with the consensus being 4 percent or better. Container production is on the rise and sales are projected to top $300 billion in 2023 and surge above $325 billion by the close of business in 2024.

SpendEdge, a London-based global procurement market intelligence firm, projected spend growth of some $55 billion between 2019 and 2023 alone. News came in its recently released Global Corrugated Packaging Industry Procurement Intelligence Report. The document revealed, “Extensive applications in this sector tie to their efficacy in protecting the goods from moisture and the ability to carry a wide range of weights, and a deepening focus on sustainability goals.” It encouraged buyers to leverage packaging bundling options to improve cost savings. Among observations voiced and then reinforced time and again, “In terms of regional spend, North America will lead other regions. Growth will be directly related to the prominence of the e-commerce sector that is accounting for a large-scale procurement of corrugated packaging solutions that are strong, durable and can be recycled.”

Recent winners in the corrugated category of the Excellence in Flexography Awards

Smithers Pira also pointed to e-commerce’s explosion in driving demand. Its Future of Corrugated Packaging to 2023 set CAGR at better than 3.7 percent from 2018 forward and specified a sales value of $300 billion in 2023. Researchers noted, “Global online sales are expected to top $5.5 trillion in 2023. This will have a profound impact on packaging demand, especially in the corrugated industry as it represents 80 percent of demand in e-commerce.”

Commenting on standing trends, Smithers Pira said, “While light weighting of board has long been affecting the corrugated industry, right weighting and rightsizing are playing an increasingly important role. This is due in part to both response to consumer demand for efficient packaging and the logistics chain’s adoption of dimensional weight (DIM) pricing.” Print production teams were reminded, “Transition to heavier board grade can have a beneficial impact on business and processing times, as it allows for the elimination of additional protective elements.”

Mordor Intelligence maintained, “The global corrugated board packaging market was valued at $251.5 billion in 2018, and is expected to reach $325.6 billion by 2024, recording a CAGR of 4.4 percent during the forecast period. Rising consumer consciousness and rising concerns by regulatory bodies regarding sustainable packaging and the cost benefits associated with it are encouraging the use of Earth-friendly packaging product, and driving the growth of the corrugated board packaging market.”

Its analysts further detailed, “Corrugated packaging comprises 88 percent of recycled content with the additional fresh fibers coming from sustainably managed forests—It is harmless rather than catastrophic. Moreover, if a corrugated box ends up in the ocean, it will be degraded within two months. Prominent e-commerce companies such as Amazon are moving toward corrugated board packaging, as it helps in controlling costs apart from offering an environment-friendly option.”

Corrugated Forecast Figures

Mordor offered, “North America’s robust financial position enables the region to invest heavily in advanced solutions and technologies. These advantages have provided a competitive edge… Rising awareness among consumers regarding environmentally friendly products is expected to drive the demand for the corrugated board packaging market in North America over the forecast period. Government initiatives for stimulating eco-friendly packaging materials are providing an added impetus. Some 51 percent of Americans consider packaging waste to be a critical environmental issue. Apart from this, e-commerce revenue is likely to reach $513 billion by 2021, which will further drive the demand for corrugated board packaging in North America. Almost 95 percent of the North American consumer goods are transported across the globe in corrugated boxes.”

In other notes, Mordor Intelligence’s market evaluation team pointed out, “Food chains, such as McDonald’s, which is planning to use 100 percent recyclable packaging by 2025, serve to illustrate the fact that manufacturers are choosing to seize opportunities to build consumer trust by proactively addressing environmental issues… The market for corrugated board packaging is fragmented, with many players in the market continuously innovating to promote sustainable packaging.”