Driven by E-commerce, Box Sales Show Highest 2-year Growth Rate Since 1993-94

corrugated box market

BOSTONJune 14, 2018 – The box business is back, suggest data that show North American shipment growth exceeding 2% in 2016-2017 – the fastest consecutive annual growth since 1993-1994. Yet today’s converting sector has evolved radically over the past decade, reshaped by the same forces that are driving its expanding output. E-commerce, corporate consolidation, and global trade shifts are among the factors explored by Volume 2 of The Future of North American Containerboard: A Strategic Viewreleased today by RISI, the leading information provider for the global forest products industry.

“E-commerce is the immediate cause of growing box shipments, but its implications can’t be understood in isolation,” said Sarilee Norton, 35-year industry veteran and author of the new study, as well as Volume 1, released in 2017. “We must consider it in the context of rapid industry consolidation, higher materials costs as well as higher plant productivity, and a changing vision of packaging’s role in the customer experience.”

The converting sector – which includes companies that purchase both rollstock and corrugated sheets to “convert” into boxes, as well as “integrated” producers of both containerboard and finished packaging products – is the focus of Volume 2. The overall paper packaging supply chain, from suppliers of wood fiber to end users to the buyers and resellers of old corrugated cardboard (OCC), is deeply affected by the challenges converters face.

“Materials cost inflation, transportation costs, health and safety concerns, sustainability— if you’re a converter, your customers are dealing with most of the same issues that you are,” said Norton. “That’s why this study looks at the industry in a holistic way.”

Volume 2 of The Future of North American Containerboard: A Strategic View includes:

– “Footprint Maps” of 1,300 Box Plants in the US and CanadaA detailed presentation of the entire box converting network, with key data about all 1,300 plants owned by integrated companies as well as the remaining independent converting industry.

–  Timely Market Information: Which converting assets have  been acquired, by whom and when; what end-use segments are having the greatest impact on box demand growth; new insights into key trends—e-commerce, basis weights, alternate approaches to supplying boxes.    

– The “Value Chain” Model: A structure for understanding how each part of the containerboard industry fits together, and the forces behind its rapid evolution.

The report also provides findings from direct surveys of leading executives in the containerboard converting space. Author Sarilee Norton is perhaps uniquely qualified to present and interpret these findings, as a leading industry consultant and former Vice President of Corporate Strategy for Packaging Corporation of America. She has also worked for and/or consulted with Mead/Westvaco, WestRock, International Paper, Union Camp, Temple-Inland and Acme Corrugated Box, among other experience at the heart of this dynamic industry.

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