With the advent of checkout machines and reusable shopping bags, it’s less common to hear the cashier ask “paper or plastic?” But that question remains popular for packagers who are now offering a wealth of packaging options including pouches and cartons in addition to boxes, cans, bottles, bags and such. While pouches get a lot of attention in the market, paperboard is growing steadily thanks to its sustainability and the diverse design options available.


Sustainability is far-reaching

Paperboard benefits from being an easily recyclable and renewable resource. According to the Paperboard Packaging Council (PPC), sustainability is becoming a major factor in the paperboard industry and paperboard packaging is breaking into new markets, such as produce, where less sustainable materials like plastics have been used in the past.

Cartons, which are made of paperboard with a mix of other materials, continue to grow both in market penetration and recycling access. According to the Carton Council, 50% of US household have access to carton recycling with that access continually increasing.


Award-winning design

The PPC’s 2014 North American Paperboard Packaging Competition showcased new trends, innovations and applications for paperboard packaging. The winners of the competition showcased just how far paperboard has come in the food and beverage markets with food end use packages taking four of the top awards.

Graphic Packaging International (graphicpkg.com) took home top awards for two packages. Most notably, the company’s Bertolli Rustico Bakes tray garnered the Innovation Award for its unique paper and plastic hybrid tray that not only offers a 45% reduction in non-renewable materials from traditional CPET trays but also evenly heats the frozen dinners, thereby benefitting both the planet and the consumers using the product.

The top award of the competition, the Paperboard Package of the Year, went to Cascades Boxboard Group (cascades.com) for its 12-Pack Hybrid Egg Carton. This package swaps out molded plastic or pulp lids for and SBS lid that offers up 45% more graphic space and a glare-free finish, making this egg package both visually appealing and easy to see in bright grocery coolers. The package still fits within standard cases and works with existing egg graders making it easy to integrate.

As coatings, printing and design innovations continue to grow, paperboard packaging possibilities will too. Package designers are always reaching new heights and new markets with their innovations, and they show no sign of stopping.