currugated box packaging packaging industry trends

2024 Packaging Industry Trends: The Evolution of Corrugated Box Packaging

In 2024, the corrugated box packaging sector is expected to undergo significant changes, as predicted by experts in the packaging industry. The year is anticipated to be transformative, with a focus on sustainability, innovation, and economic factors. Get ready for remarkable shifts that will shape the corrugated box packaging sector.

1. Innovations in Corrugated Box Packaging

Connected Packaging

Connected and interactive packaging, often linked to technology, is predicted to go mainstream in 2024. QR codes, RFID tags, and augmented reality experiences will enhance consumer engagement. Businesses incorporating these features into corrugated box packaging stand to gain a significant “first-mover” advantage, providing added value to consumers and boosting brand loyalty.

Importance of Print in Corrugated Box Packaging

With an increasing focus on branding, sustainability logos, water, and soy-based inks are expected to become more prevalent. Personalization through AI and digital printing capabilities will offer unique unboxing experiences, improving customer loyalty within the corrugated box packaging market.

Inclusive Packaging

Beyond technological advancements, inclusive packaging is gaining prominence. This approach looks beyond aesthetics and functionality, incorporating diversity and social responsibility. Corrugated box packaging can reflect a brand’s ethical values, with ethically sourced materials and transparent branding representing diverse demographics.


2. Balancing Sustainability and Costs in Corrugated Box Packaging

Minimalist Packaging – Back to Basics

As costs become a pressing concern, a key trend for 2024 is the shift towards minimalist corrugated box packaging. Adopting a back-to-basics approach, companies are exploring efficient packaging designs that prioritize functionality over excessive branding. This not only reduces costs but also aligns with sustainability goals, as size-optimized packaging minimizes material use and carbon emissions during transit.

Sustainability vs Costs

The year 2023 witnessed sustainability dominating packaging discussions. However, a new voice had stressed on the need to balance sustainability against rising costs.

In a recent survey, 42% indicated that sustainability mattered only if it didn’t significantly increase costs. Striking a balance between cost-effective measures and genuine sustainability is important for businesses, especially with the expected challenges in the trading environment.

Material Costs and Stability

Material costs have been a headache for box packaging suppliers in Malaysia, with the price of corrugated cardboard doubling between June 2020 and January 2023. Stabilization is anticipated in 2024, offering some relief to the market. Despite ongoing supply chain challenges, the expectation is that material costs, especially for corrugated box packaging, will finally see a return to stability.


3. Addressing Economic and Legislative Impacts

Labour Costs and Availability

While there’s hope for stabilized material prices in 2024, other factors like labor costs and availability still present certain challenges. Skilled employees remain elusive, impacting wage inflation.

A potential dip in consumer spending due to labor market fluctuations may affect overall demand. However, inflationary pressures are expected to ease, providing some relief.

AI and Packaging

Contrary to fears of job replacement, AI is expected to play a strategic role in packaging. Businesses can leverage AI for data analysis, A/B testing, and packaging optimization. Rather than replacing humans, AI enhances data interpretation, allowing businesses to make informed decisions regarding custom box packaging strategies.

Increased Legislation (EPR / PPT)

The government’s implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in 2024, along with the Plastic Packaging Tax, will reshape packaging choices. Businesses are likely to transition from single-use plastics to more sustainable options, adapting to modulated fees and increased charges for less sustainable packaging materials.


4. The Rise of Reusable Corrugated Box Packaging

Returnable Packaging Taking Center Stage

Fueled by EPR legislation and cost pressures, 2024 could witness a surge in businesses adopting returnable packaging. Consumers already show readiness, with 66% indicating a willingness to return packaging if businesses cover the expense. Beyond reducing packaging volume, returnable packs offer potential long-term cost savings and align with sustainability goals.

E-commerce Challenges and Warehouse Strains

As e-commerce sales revert to pre-pandemic trends, challenges persist in warehouse space, labor availability, and inventory management. Businesses must optimize their systems to capitalize on the expected double-digit growth in e-commerce sales through 2027, ensuring efficient corrugated box packaging solutions.


5. Economic and Manufacturing Outlook

Economic Pressures

The economic outlook for 2024 is influenced by predictions of stagnant living standards. While challenges exist, events like a general election and falling inflation provide optimism. The packaging market’s performance is linked with the overall economy, with potential for a slow start in 2024 before stabilizing and returning to growth in the second half.

Manufacturing Outlook

Manufacturing in the UK, for example, faces sluggish growth, with expectations of a 0.5% fall in output in 2023. However, businesses considering investments in new equipment and infrastructure may stimulate growth, with falling interest rates playing a role. Despite uncertainties, 2024 holds the potential for a slow start transitioning to growth.


6. Sustainable Innovations and Industry Challenges

Sustainable Foam Materials

The year 2024 could mark a shift towards sustainable foams, including wood-based options. With plastic foams facing scrutiny due to the Plastic Packaging Tax, the corrugated box packaging sector may witness increased adoption of plant-based foams in various applications, enhancing sustainability and recyclability.

Cost Pressures Driving Less-Known Brands

Cost pressures are driving a trend where less-established brands offer budget cases as alternatives to established options. This shift, witnessed in the protective case market, provides performance and features equivalent to well-known brands but at a lower cost.

Defence Sector Growth

The defense sector, witnessing significant growth in 2023, is expected to continue its expansion in 2024. This growth directly impacts the packaging requirements for military equipment, emphasizing the use of high-performance protective cases and foam inserts within the corrugated box packaging scenario.


Final Takeaways

While the packaging predictions for 2024 present a mix of challenges and opportunities, the evolution of corrugated box packaging remains clear. Businesses adopting sustainability, innovation, and adaptability stand to thrive in the ever-evolving scenario.

Packaging experts envision a future where corrugated box packaging is not just a necessity but a strategic advantage, providing enhanced sustainability, interactivity, and cost-effectiveness.