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What Are Some Paperboard Packaging Trends to Watch?

Carton of eggs.

Paperboard packaging design is one of the hottest trends in the CPG market. The latest innovations in digital printing, packaging design, and the quality of the materials have made paperboard packaging a desirable choice for any brand seeking a sustainable option for their products. Here are some of the top trends making headlines in the CPG packaging design world.

Understanding Paperboard Packaging

Paperboard packaging is thicker than paper. This type of packaging material is more substantial, which makes it stronger, but still lightweight. This also makes the material easy to form and cut. There are several different grades of paperboard available in the CPG product space:

  • Solid bleached sulfate contains at minimum 80% virgin bleached wood pulp. There’s usually a thin layer of kaolin clay to improve the printing surface. You’ll see these products in everything from candy boxes to medical packaging.
  • Coated unbleached Kraft paperboard comes in two different styles; one is a solid unbleached sulfate that is a very strong paperboard grade. This is in use in heavy-duty packaging designs such as frozen foods. There is also the Met-Pet Board, which has a metalized polyester film on top. You’ll find this used in media or medical packaging.
  • Coated recycled paperboard has a thin layer of kaolin clay to make it easier to print on the surface. Look for this in soap or paper goods packaging. 

We know that these innovative materials have catapulted paperboard packaging to the hot new packaging design. What are some of the best examples of companies that are using these techniques?

Three pack of beverages.

Paperboard Packaging Design Innovations

Packaging Digest reviewed four of the hottest paperboard packaging designs to hit the market recently. These trends were judged as standouts at the annual North American Paperboard Packaging Competition:

  • Digital printing is hot. When you combine it with paperboard, it creates an entirely new, sustainable, yet slick product that gets the attention of consumers. One judge at the competition suggested that digital printing will soon become the standard for high-quality packaging design in paperboard products.
  • Upscale CPG goods look amazing in paperboard. But everyday brands can also look white label for a reasonable price by using paperboard. 
  • Paperboard can also handle dual or multi-use packaging design. For example, a carton can turn into an ice bucket. 
  • The other hot trend in sustainable paperboard packaging design is from the Cannabis industry. There’s a fast-growing market for these products that, for the record, do not produce the high that marijuana does. However, packaging of these products is pretty exciting; look for paperboard innovations in these products to include techniques such as foil stamping, soft-touch coating, or spot varnish.

Paperboard packaging design has come a long way from the egg cartons of yesterday. These products are good candidates for recycling; it’s a category often associated with food cartons, which are highly visible to consumers as litter. Instead, even one-time-use paperboard products have the potential to reduce waste. So, from a CPG packaging perspective, paperboard packaging is malleable, recyclable, and highly innovative. It’s for these reasons we believe paperboard packaging design is here to stay.

PKG Brand Design is always on the forefront of new CPG branding and packaging initiatives; please subscribe to our blog for the latest package design industry news!


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