Home renovation and improvement expert Bob Vila used his How To’s & Quick Tips section on his website to illustrate “17 Creative Ways to Reuse Cardboard Boxes.” Among the suggestions are cardboard postcards, cat scratching pads, bird feeders and customized picture mats. 

The reuse attributes of cardboard and paperboard materials has elevated the sustainability qualities associated with the packaging. However, reuse is not the only way that cartons have made a sustainability impact. For instance, this year The Carton Council of North America announced that 78.6 million U.S. households can recycle their food and beverage cartons through their local recycling programs. That means more than 62% of all U.S. households have access to carton recycling.

“We credit the momentum in carton recycling to our continued approach of working with stakeholders throughout the entire recycling value chain,” said Larine Urbina, vice president of communications for the Carton Council, in a statement earlier this year. “Whether it involves working with local communities, end markets, MRFs, schools, local governments or other third-party organizations, we’re focused on continuing our collaborative efforts in 2023.”

Suppliers recognize the importance of sustainability not just in terms of the planet, but consumer’s decision making.

“We’re seeing a growing trend of consumers wanting to do more for the planet, and they look to brands to help. More brands are sharing their sustainability stories on-pack, including third-party certifications, to educate consumers and stand out on the shelf,” says Tania Jacomini, marketing manager at Tetra Pak Inc., Denton, Texas.

Jacomini notes that Tetra Pak’s cartons are primarily plant-based and their paperboard are made from forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and other controlled sources.

“All Tetra Pak cartons sold in the U.S. and Canada can carry the recycling logo and Forest Stewardship Council logo,” she says. “It may sound simple but ensuring that the recycling logo is clearly visible on the package is one of the best ways to encourage consumer recycling practices.”

The environmental attributes as well as a host of other benefits, have made aseptic cartons a popular solution.

“For example, Tetra Pak’s shelf-stable cartons save space, reduce waste and simplify operations with fewer deliveries,” Jacomini says. “Tetra Pak cartons allow for lower-carbon logistics by reducing the number of deliveries needed and eliminating the need for refrigeration during transport and storage.”

Cheers to cartons

With efforts being made to support the recycling of materials like cartons, data suggests carton packaging is gaining traction.

In a Market Research Future (MRFR) report, titled “Beverage Cartons Market Research Report Information by Application, Region, and Type - Forecast Till 2032,” MRFR predicts the global beverage cartons market will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 4.5% from 2022 to 2032, reaching $25.6 billion revenue by 2032. The report highlights that population growth, rising incomes and changing lifestyles have contributed to the packaging formats driving forces.

“Moreover, the factors such as changing lifestyles, growing urban population, demand for packaged beverages, youths’ growing health consciousness, demand for flavored water, and customers’ active lifestyles are also projected to impact the market’s growth over the coming years positively,” the report states.

Tetra Pak’s Jacomini notes that as lifestyles that prioritize convenience becomes a driver for package choice, it remain incumbent upon suppliers to maintain sustainable solutions.

“On-the-go consumption often results in excess food waste. To address this problem, Tetra Pak is investing €100 million a year for the next five to 10 years to create the world’s most sustainable packaging, made solely of responsibly sourced renewable or recycled materials that are fully recyclable and carbon neutral,” she says. “On-the-go solutions such as aseptic packaging reduces the need to chill products before opening, plus resealable carton packaging is becoming increasingly important for consumers.”

Also recognizing the shifting demands of consumers, U.S. food distributor Diversified Foods (DFI) announced earlier this year its new shelf-stable Pantry Fresh products under the brand name Marcel’s Modern Pantry. The line is designed to “cater to the evolving needs and preferences of today’s health-conscious and active consumers,” it said in a release. To support this need state, the lactose-free milks are packaged in 8-ounce SIG MiniBloc beverage cartons.

PM_Cartons_diversified-foods.jpgDiversified Foods (DFI) announced earlier this year its new shelf-stable Pantry Fresh products under the brand name Marcel’s Modern Pantry, packaged in 8-ounce SIG MiniBloc beverage cartons.
Image courtesy of SIG/ Diversified Foods

SIG aseptic cartons offer product protection of milk for more than six months at room temperature when unopened. The carton packs also are made with paperboard that is procured with Forest Stewardship Council standards for responsible sourcing.

Carton manufacturers also are addressing unique needs of beverage-makers. This fall, Tetra Pak, Denton, Texas, announced its first Custom Printing collaboration with Flow Beverage Corp. to create one-of-a-kind designs, for a truly immersive and engaging consumer experience, it notes. The collaboration will employ Tetra Pak Custom Printing, a premium ink jet-based carton package printing solution.

“Tetra Pak Custom Printing is the first and only premium ink jet-based carton package printing solution to offer brands an innovative, cost-effective promotion and customizable system while providing all the environmental benefits of paper-based beverage cartons,” Jacomini says. “This innovative technology allows brands to unleash their creative potential by providing increased flexibility to create impactful promotional campaigns and opportunity to diversify their advertising strategies.”

Nicholas Reichenbach, founder and CEO of Flow Beverage Corp., added: “We are thrilled to be the first brand to market the unique Tetra Pak Custom Printing solution, which has allowed us to not only elevate the design of Flow's cartons, but also to open up new horizons in advertising possibilities. The packaging provides an artful medium that speaks volumes about our commitment to quality, sustainability, and memorable experiences. This is just the beginning, and we can’t wait to see more of our strategic food service and retail partners express their brand and sustainability values on pack together with us, as we continue to flow with creative ideas and shape the future of beverage carton packaging together.”

As beverage-makers look for pack solutions that hit on multiple attributes, carton suppliers are ensuring brands will be satisfied with this packaging material.