Paper packaging is a versatile way of packaging that makes use of paper for sustainable transportation and protection of goods. Paper is 100% recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable, as it is manufactured from the natural fibers of bleached and unbleached cellulose, or from recycled paper. Paper and board packaging is a more eco-friendly alternative to plastic-based packaging. Paper packaging material is light in weight, strong, and easily customizable for aesthetics, which poses as an additional advantage, inclined to customer preference.

Environment friendly nature of paper, low cost compared to alternatives and scrutiny from governments, public, NGOs, and media regarding waste generation are the major drivers fueling market growth. Companies taking an environmental stand have observed a better public profile than their counterparts, which helps in the direct translation of company health.

The major challenges faced by the market is the inability of paper in packaging of very heavy materials, resulting in the industry being overpowered by the polymers and metal packaging industries. Furthermore, deforestation to acquire raw material and the release of dioxins during paper production cause environmental concerns, in turn hindering growth of the paper packaging market.

Paper Packaging Market Taxonomy

On basis of product type

  • Corrugated Containers
  • Paperboard Cartons
  • Paper bags and Sacks
  • Flexible
  • Others

On basis of grade

  • Solid Bleached Surface
  • Coated Recycled Board
  • Uncoated Recycled Board

On basis of end-user

  • Food
  • Beverages
  • Cosmetics & Personal Care
  • Medical
  • Others

Corrugated containers are primarily used as tertiary packing, which is removed by retailers before sale. Owing to the higher degree of strength from the layered paper packaging structure, corrugated containers are used to carry heavy goods such as electronics or multiple packages in the same container. Cartons, on the other hand, are lightweight materials used for packaging single items. Paper bags are made from a single layer of paper and are used for light duty applications such as grocery packaging.

Solid bleached surface is a bleached chemical board with a mineral or synthetic coating for printing purposes. It is used in high-end packaging, pharmaceuticals, and food packaging, where aroma and flavor retention are essential. Coated recycled paperboard is produced from 100% recycled material and is coated with a kaolin layer for product description printing, these are used for cereal boxes, soaps and detergents, and paper goods packaging. Uncoated recycled paperboard is also produced from 100% recycled material and is used for shoeboxes, composite cans, and fiber drums.

Largest end-user industry of paper packaging is the food industry. Moreover, with population in emerging economies such as China and India getting richer, the demand for packaged goods increases, in turn driving growth of the packaging industry.

Market Outlook

  • Asia Pacific is the fastest growing market with increase in demand for food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, and personal healthcare products. Increased consumer awareness in this region, has resulted in a shift towards paper packaging. The demand for paper pulp is also increasing in this region. Japan is the largest packaging market in Asia, however, increase in consumption tax has decelerated its growth.
  • North America is a market leader in paper packaging and recycles up to 70% of its used paper, according to the US Forest and Paper Association. Around 35% of the feed for new paper was from recycled paper. In Europe, the European Paper Recycling Council aims to achieve 74% recycling in the European Union, with Scandinavian countries particularly adept.
  • Latin America has witnessed growing investments in hardwood pulp, which is used as a feedstock for paper. Brazil is a major market, however, environmental and labor regulations are expected to restrict growth as the market matures. Moreover, the logging industry is the largest industrial employer in Latin America, with Amazon forests as the source.
  • The Middle East has one of the largest per capita incomes in the world, hence the population has high disposable incomes, which has resulted in high consumption rates, in turn driving the packaging industry growth in this region. Whereas, Africa is expected to experience growth in the near future.
  • Low cost and innovative solutions on a local and regional level have challenged established market leaders, creating a buyer’s market with low prices on offer. The key players in the market include Clearwater Paper Corporation, Amcor Ltd., ITC Ltd., Metsa Group, Cascades Inc., Rock-Tenn Company, Mondi Group, Packaging Corporation of America, and DS Smith Plc.

Key Takeaways of the market

  • Plastic pollution has become a major environmental concern globally. Around 4 Mn tons of garbage is disposed every day, out of which 15% (0.60 Mn tons) comprise plastics. These factors have altered consumer awareness and have shifted their inclination towards the usage of paper packaging. Further, these concerns have also paved the way for several manufacturers to enter this market.
  • Technological innovation by leading key market players is playing important role in growth of paper packaging market. For instance, in July 2019, Henkel’s Packaging and Consumer Goods division launched EPIX Technology. This innovative technology offers improved performance & functionality of the paper while maintaining the sustainability and recycling of packaging products.
  • In August 2017, Elopak and Stora Enso together launched gable top cartons which are made from natural brown unbleached paperboard named Natura Life TM, which holds the natural brown color of wood fibers. This innovation is the stepping stone to the creation of a sustainable and authentic packaging that would cater to the increasing demand for ecological, ethical and organic products.
  • Increasing number of food service chains such as McDonald’s globally represents potential growth opportunity for low cost paper food packaging. These takeaway restaurants are extensively adopting portable and sustainable packaging such as paper bags which provide easier way of food delivery.