PaperAge Magazine

Paperboard Packaging Council Shares Trends from Folding Carton Design Competition

Tampax Pearl carton with virtual window PaperWorks Industries added a 'virtual window' to a Tampax Pearl carton the company converted, substituting a plastic window for a descriptive graphic of the product inside.

Aug. 1, 2019 (Press Release) - Packaging design is always evolving. Consumer preferences change. New technologies emerge. To stay relevant, it's crucial to stay on top of the latest trends. To help, the Paperboard Packaging Council (PPC) has shared four design trends the association observed during the judging of its 76th annual North American Paperboard Packaging Competition.

Converters Take Full Advantage of Digital

PPC launched a digital printing and converting category in the 2018 competition, and this year's event saw more digital entries than ever before, showcasing the expanded use of digital capacities.

Judge Tony Hitchin, General Manager of Pro Carton, said, “Digital print and cutting is being used much more widely, and not just for personalization, but also to add speed and flexibility to the supply chain.”

Zumbiel Packaging submitted one such digital entry, folding carton sleeves for Home Chef's fresh, refrigerated, ready-to-cook meal kits. Home Chef offers seasonal menu offerings, which means that exact ingredients and nutritional facts are not available well in advance.

Home Chef's need for flexibility lent itself perfectly to Zumbiel's digital printing and workflows. Zumbiel receives 24 new graphic files for various meal kits each week. They then print, cut, and glue those 24 unique SKUs in 24-48 hours. The filled cartons hit store shelves nationwide no later than two weeks after Zumbiel receives the art.

Beverage Packaging Goes Green

The beverage market is by far the largest end user of folding cartons in the United States, with an estimated 23.0% (1.11 million tons) of total carton shipments in 2018.

That said, the judges in PPC's competition were pleased to see great strides in sustainability from the beverage space, specifically in terms of replacing plastic with renewable paperboard. There was a significant move away from plastic hi-cones and shrink-wrap to highly decorated carton-based multipack solutions for both bottles and canned drinks. Not only does this move favor a more environmentally-friendly substrate, it also allows for the use of high-end finishings and design techniques unique to paperboard.

'Virtual Window' & Other New Techniques

Judge Dr. Nona Woolbright, Associate Professor of Graphic Communications at Clemson University, remarked this year, “I noticed an overall increase in the use of finishing techniques. When these applications were added to beautifully designed and exciting pieces, the overall visuals were stunning.”

One new design concept for 2019 was the 'virtual window.' PaperWorks Industries, Inc. added this feature to a Tampax Pearl carton, substituting a plastic window for a descriptive graphic of the product inside. Designed to appear as though it were a window on the pack, the graphics include appropriate shadowing and depth-of-field.

Other interesting techniques included intricate laser die cutting that eliminates the need for printing; gradient glitter that either changed in color or intensity from top to bottom of the carton; and innovative new tamper resistant designs.

An Industry Dedicated to Advancement

While most of the packaging entered is made for customers, PPC's competition does feature a self-promotion category. These are the boxes or samples that member companies send to prospects as marketing tools — and they generally showcase all the high-end, value-added converting techniques and capacities the converter has to offer.

This year, the quality of the promotional packs was sensational, with no expense spared to show the wide range of print and special effect capabilities. From velvety smooth coatings to unique structures, the self-promotional entries showed that converters have been investing in the latest technologies and that the industry is dedicated to advancement.

The winners of the 2019 North American Paperboard Packaging Competition will be announced at PPC's upcoming Fall Meeting, Oct. 23-25 in Minneapolis. For more information about the competition, visit:

Now in its 90th year, PPC is the North American association for converters of paperboard packaging and their suppliers. To learn more, please visit:

SOURCE: Paperboard Packaging Council