The worldwide demand for folding cartons is increasing, and with this increase comes the need for further innovation within the industry. Market demands are driving technological advances in folding cartons, reshaping the market to fit new trends. Consumer preferences are always evolving. Expectations have changed. Here are five trends reshaping the folding carton industry.
New technology and evolving consumer and market needs are trends reshaping the folding carton industry. From the need to meet environmental standards, fight counterfeit products, create eye-catching products.
Much is to be done to prevent contamination and integrate with broad technological trends, folding cartons are changing everything from production processes to materials used.
The desire for environmentally-friendly services and products continues to grow at the same time that new regulations are put into place to avoid counterfeit products. These challenges, as well as changes to printing techniques and industry requirements, create an ever-evolving landscape for folding cartons.
Internet of All Things — Smart Packaging
Traditional folding cartons are also seeing the impact of broader technological trends, such as the “Internet of Things” (IoT). Industries as diverse as transportation, healthcare, and public utilities are investing in this growing trend, and an astonishing 94% of businesses implementing IoT’s into their business have seen ROI.
Embedding digital technology into packaging allows for a variety of innovations that would have been unimaginable even ten years ago. Asset management, product tracking, quality control, and direct communication with customers can all be a part of folding cartons in the future.
Placing sensors into products and packaging can help aggregate information, providing never before seen data sets to help create more effective industry strategies. Beverage companies, for example, are capable of embedding digital content into their packaging to offer services and provide product information.
Anti-Counterfeit and Security Measures
Counterfeit products account for a large amount of the global black market. Scammers and criminals can mimic designs and packaging to deceive consumers and retard growth for legitimate business. Advances in the folding carton industry are catching up with counterfeiters and adding a layer of security to the global markets.
An area of growing concern is the pharmaceutical market. Concerns about product tampering throughout the supply chain, as well as counterfeiting of products, has led to the implementation of stricter global regulations in the form of the EU Falsified Medicines Directive 2011/62/EU.
This directive regulates the manufacturing, importing, and wholesale distribution of medicinal products within the EU, and has impacts for package makers throughout the supply chain.
Folding cartons now see demand for innovations such as 2D data matrix codes, tamper evidence fixtures, and potentially RFID technology. RFID labels are capable of first-open sensors that interface with smart technology, recording information such as temperature recordings and whether or not the package was opened.
Embedding anti-counterfeit and security measures into the folding carton process will continue to be a growing area of need.
Environmentally Friendly Packaging
Globally, markets are adopting more environmentally friendly techniques and products. Consumer demands are shifting in many areas, which require an evolution in the way folding cartons are developed and distributed. This evolution has most directly impacted the materials used for folding cartons.
Pressure from brands and consumers is leading to more eco-friendly carton materials. One of the most innovative trends comes in the form of non-wood pulp materials. Manufacturers are leaning into raw materials such as cocoa beans, hazelnuts and edamame beans as a substitute for conventional materials. Hot melt adhesives used to join packaging materials are likewise made from biodegradable and recyclable material.
One industry seeing a significant change is the beverage market, which accounts for 23.0% of the carton shipments, or 1.11 million tons (see: keystoneparts.com). The market has moved away dramatically from plastic packaging and towards renewable cardboards. Improvements in decorative carton-based multipacks see more environmentally-friendly solutions come to the fore.
Food Safety Advancements
Concerns of contaminants absorbing through packaging to food products and causing widespread food contamination is an increasing area of interest among food safety experts. The growing awareness of this issue is leading the folding carton process to adopt a range of safety options for the industry.
Improvements to the techniques applied during curtain coating and advancements in water-based coatings show that the industry is responding to these needs. The movement towards alternative packaging and away from expanded polystyrene is also serving this purpose.
The application of ink coatings during the printing process can create a well-designed, consumer-friendly product for the consumer. However, potential cross-contamination during this process, or from outer packaging, has been a growing concern. Evolving processes contain this issue using new technology, which provides a barrier to prevent contaminants from entering the food product.
Improved Printing and Decorating Techniques
While environmentally-friendly, contaminant-free and secure folding cartons serve a growing need, the end-user also requires an attractive, eye-catching product. Improvements to the folding carton industry have evolved in this area as well, particularly as new printing techniques emerge.
New printing technologies mean more colors and more finishes to meet consumer needs and better match brand identity. Digital printing in the form of laser and inkjet printers has improved to the point that the economics of the industry has changed. Higher quality graphics can now be produced at lower costs due to manufacturing advancements.
Special features such as hot foil stamping and registered embossing can also be included at lower costs when manufacturing folding cartons. This is now done without expensive tooling costs during short-runs. The result is a better quality product at an economical price, opening up folding cartons as an option of short-run products.
The evolution of these new techniques and features opens up new markets for the folding carton industry. Short-run projects mean that smaller producers, such as artisanal food providers, craft beers, distillers, and craft products, are now viable markets for folding cartons.
Reshaping Folding Cartons for Years to Come
The growth of technology will continue to evolve the way folding cartons are created and used. The need to keep us with evolving trends will change the market. Consumer expectations, unexpected technological advancements and continually shifting regulatory standards will shape folding cartons in the coming years.