According to a Smithers report – The Future of Global Corrugated Board Packaging to 2025 – the global corrugated packaging market will reach 160.5 million tonnes in 2020, with a value of $170.7 billion.
Expert analysis in the Smithers report forecasts that the global corrugated board will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.8% across 2020-2025 to reach USD 205.7 billion. However, the volume of board consumed worldwide will increase at a slightly slower rate to reach 193.2 million tonnes in that year.
The Smithers study tracked micro and macro trends in the industry for 2015-2025. This is segmented across for six corrugated grades – unbleached kraftliner, white-top kraftliner, unbleached testliner, white-top testliner, semi-chemical fluting, waste-based fluting; 15 end-use applications; and 63 countries and world regions.
"The Covid-19 pandemic will see a marked impact on corrugated consumption in certain sectors and regions, especially those worst affected by the virus. In terms of end-uses food shipments will be least affected while other consumer items will see a more significant drop," the report stated.
These will be mitigated in developed regions by the strong increase in eCommerce as stay-at-home consumers undertake more online shopping, the report found. "Several board converters have developed eCommerce specific delivery designs to capitalise on this, accentuating what the industry has already identified as a key growth segment."
In the longer term, Smithers analysis identified the following major business trends that will support further use of corrugated board packaging.
Recycling and sustainability will remain a key concern for converters and brand owners, but oversupply of materials is liable to generate new price pressures, it stated. Meanwhile, demand for finer flute grades for high-quality printed cases and as alternatives to folding cartons is set to rise.
However, further pressure for light-weighting of corrugated designs is said to have a negative impact on volume sales as less fibre delivers an equivalent required performance.
The report also stated that eCommerce will continue to expand, even once lockdown orders have been revoked; this will generate a new need for white-top liners that can receive high-quality print graphics in particular.
"Dimensional weighing in packaging, and the focus on minimising extraneous protective components will slow some of the expanded use of corrugated in direct-to-consumer eCommerce shipping," it stated. "There will be more use of retail-ready packaging formats, as more modern retailing expands into developing markets in Asia and elsewhere."
The analysis found that digital (inkjet) printing will increase overall demand for better quality substrates and expand the options for packaging printers in both standard and RRP corrugated formats. "New coating technologies, including bio-based polymer solutions, will help improve the recyclability of coated corrugated grades."
These trends and the essential technologies that will help make them a reality over the next five years are examined in depth in the Smithers study. They are used to provide context to the wider picture of the industry across 2015-2025 given in the Smithers data set, with over 350 data tables and figures.