US demand for folding cartons is expected to increase 1.8% per year to $12.8 billion in 2026. Gains will be boosted by increasing production of goods in the US, most notably food and beverages and pharmaceuticals, as well as sustainability concerns surrounding plastic packaging.
Folding cartons will face several limiting trends, including a continuing push to reduce the amount of secondary packaging used with manufactured products. For example, in many markets cartons are seeing loss of market share to stand-up pouches, which offer:
- consumers with performance benefits such as resealability
- producers with such advantages as reduced shipping costs due to lighter weight and space saving Despite these challenges, growth will be supported by:
- increasing production of beverages, the largest application
- ongoing gains in the popularity of both takeout and delivery, amplified by the rise in online ordering and third-party delivery services
- rising pharmaceutical production to meet the needs of an aging population
- Sustainability has a complicated impact on demand for folding cartons, as the relative advantages and disadvantages of paperboard can benefit some aspects of sustainability while detracting from others. While there is demand for use of paper-based products over plastic types (especially in foodservice applications) because paper is commonly perceived by consumers as being more environmentally friendly, the rigid nature and poor barrier properties of paperboard compared to plastic are causing folding cartons to lose share to plastic packaging in some applications.
This report covers folding carton demand by Market, with data given in dollar value and volume (tons).
Folding carton markets covered in the study include:
Food and beverages (beverages; frozen foods; bakery products; meat, poultry, and seafood; candy and confections; dairy products; other food products) Scope of the Report
Nondurable goods (pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and toiletries, paper and publishing, chemical products, other nondurable goods)
Durable goods (fabricated metal products; toys and sporting goods; machinery and equipment; silverware and jewelry; music, entertainment, and software; motor vehicle parts; glass and ceramic products; instruments and all other durable goods)
Foodservice and carryout (French fry cartons, donut boxes, pizza boxes, other foodservice and carryout application)
Moving, storage, and other markets
This report covers the scope, size, and growth of the US folding carton market including key trends in applications and market segmentation. Historical data are provided for 2011, 2016, and 2021 with forecasts for 2026 and 2031, with year by year historical market volatility also addressed. Data are provided in dollar value and volume. Also included is an analysis of the industry key players and their market shares. Specialty Drinks & Frozen Food Provide Opportunities for the Large Food & Beverage Market
In 2021, food and beverage applications accounted for 61% of folding carton demand. Demand for folding cartons in the beverage market will benefit from the popularity of smaller, regional runs of beverages, most notably craft beer, and proliferation of limited, seasonal varieties of hard seltzers and premixed cocktails. These products frequently use folding cartons with more colorful and elaborate graphics to stand out from the competition.
The frozen food market will also see relatively healthy growth, boosted by continued consumer interest in convenient trays or bowls, which frequently employ folding cartons as secondary packaging. However, further gains in this market will be limited by competition from paper sleeves for secondary packaging of frozen food. Foodservice Applications Are Forecast to See the Fastest Gains
The foodservice and carryout market for folding cartons is expected to expand much more quickly than average, due largely to the importance of takeout and delivery, as well as of online ordering and third-party delivery services. While consumer interest in sustainability is boosting use of paper folding cartons (which are seen as recyclable and biodegradable) in place of single-use plastics, sealable plastic packaging continues to provide strong competition for some foodservice items, as consumers are most concerned that their food arrives intact and plastic containers have higher leak resistance than cartons.