For most people, corrugated packaging products usually conjure up an image of a plain brown box. Yet these brown boxes remain one of the most versatile forms of packaging. With a focus on optimizing costs and improving sustainability efforts, packaging is becoming more about practicality and adding value to your product.

This is why manufacturers need to take a closer look at their corrugated packaging and how it contributes to this value. For example, how the box is made, whether it can withstand handling and transportation, as well as how well it protects products.

In this article, we discuss these questions and the three main benefits of corrugated packaging products that manufacturers can take advantage of.

Benefit #1: More Cost-Effective Packaging Options

Manufacturers are continually looking for ways to reduce costs without compromising on the quality of their packaging. A way to achieve this is to consider using corrugated board which is relatively easy to customize through thoughtful design.

Modern brown box packaging is very versatile and is often a more cost-effective substitute, compared to other types of packaging materials. For example, instead of using plastic, a water-repellent coating can be applied to packaging to improve its durability.

Partnering with a packaging company that understands retail packaging requirements and preferences can help to optimize packaging costs. Cost savings also factor in when considering overall costs involved in getting products to market. Boxes that are well-designed and well-built, protect the product and are easier to transport and store. This helps optimize logistics and storage costs.

Additional cost savings can be realized by reducing returns of damaged goods. The way a packaging company helps to achieve this is through rigorous testing as part of the design process. This may include compression testing to ensure that even when boxes are stacked, they don’t get damaged in transit. Similarly, drop and puncture testing is conducted. This is to establish if any spillage or damage occurs when a box is accidentally dropped or punctured.

Testing and optimizing packaging is a way to establish cost savings that a manufacturer can continue to benefit from in the longer term.

Benefit #2: Highly Customizable Corrugated Packaging Products

A major benefit of using corrugated material is that it has a multitude of applications and is comparatively easy to customize. One approach when looking to improve packaging is to conduct a review on existing packaging.

This looks at both the composition of materials and the design. The review also takes into consideration what the purpose of the packaging is when looking for ways to improve it.

Customization can be aligned with the manufacturer’s priorities. For example, a manufacturer may be looking to improve its sustainability efforts due to changing legislation. In this case using recyclable materials will be a priority. Alternatively the focus may be on reducing costs without compromising on quality. This may lead to an entirely new and innovative packaging design and equipment.

Consider that food packaging, for example, may have several layers and feature different materials. It may have a plastic inner that fits inside a box. But this box will not stand up to being transported without being damaged, so is packaged into a second box for distribution.

Improvements could be made by creating a box of thicker board that is stronger and lining it with a waterproof coating rather than having a plastic insert. Or, in the case of small home appliances, instead of using polystyrene beads a corrugated insert could be molded to fit around a product to protect it.

Corrugated material is a very versatile product that provides a great deal of flexibility when it comes to packaging applications. Adaptations can easily be made by changing the type, shape, or thickness of corrugated packaging to meet specific logistical needs.

Benefit #3: Improve Sustainability with Corrugated Packaging Products

Packaging is often blamed for large volumes of waste. Because of this, manufacturers are becoming more conscious of the materials they use. The current focus is on sourcing materials from renewable sources such as trees rather than by-products of fossil fuels such as plastic. This makes corrugated material a preferred choice because mills can obtain materials through responsibly managed, renewable sources.

Many corrugated container companies are taking this a step further by using corrugated packaging products made from recycled material. This has a major impact on retail and other industrial sustainability efforts. For a start, it reduces the amount of waste that would otherwise end up in landfills. It also reduces the requirement for virgin resources and instead leverages materials that are already in circulation.

Compared to plastic, glass, and wood, corrugated packaging products have one of the highest recycling rates in the USA – 93%! Much of this is due to recycling public awareness coupled with the availability of curbside collection or local recycling drop-off depots. For manufacturers, this means that whether the products are sold directly to customers through eCommerce or go into major retailers, it increases the probability of being recycled if it’s corrugated.

The U.S. recycling rate for corrugated packaging products has exceeded 82% since 2009.

Recycling is a way to engage with consumers and partner with them on a sustainability journey. In this packaging is becoming an important factor, influencing buying decisions and consumer loyalty. When consumers can see a manufacturer making a commitment to use recycled material for corrugated packaging products, it makes them feel that their efforts to recycle are having an impact.

“Manufacturers and retailers of fast-moving consumer goods continue to innovate new packaging formats to improve circularity, particularly focusing on recycled content.”

- David Feber, Via McKinsey “Sustainability in Packaging 2023”

How Can You Make the Most of These Benefits?

There are many different factors to take into consideration with packaging. To improve your packaging supply chain efficiency, it helps to partner with a packaging container company that has decades of experience.

York Container not only understands packaging, but also the requirements of warehousing, retail, and distribution. We bring this knowledge across regions (like Chicago and beyond) into working with manufacturers to help them improve their packaging.

If this is your objective, or you need to rethink your packaging to align with sustainability goals, a great start is to conduct a packaging review. This can help you understand where there are possibilities for design improvements that can result in cost savings or an improved sustainability score.