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E-Commerce Surge Fuels Demand for Corrugated Boxes. Can Manufacturers Keep Up?

As ecommerce volumes have soared over the past year, so too has demand for corrugated boxes. According to an IBISWorld report, the cardboard box and container manufacturing industry took in $67.3 billion in revenue last year from January through October. Between June and October, box shipments met 34 billion square feet—an industry record—each month. Global box demand is expected to stay strong as consumers opt to shop online rather than in stores, and experts predict it will be even stronger when the service economy and events pick back up.


COVID-19, supply chain challenges interrupt recycling systems

Prior to the pandemic, most shipment deliveries were made in bulk directly to shops and restaurants, and packaging found its way quickly back into the system through recycling. Today, boxes are piling up in homes rather than at restaurants and retail stores, shifting the responsibility to households to dispose of them properly. However, according to USA Today, about 40 percent of Americans either don’t have access to or don’t sign up for curbside recycling. That means a lot of boxes are being thrown away instead of being used to create more boxes.

The pandemic and other factors have also affected the recycling system and availability of raw materials in the supply chain. Factors noted by the Solid Waste Association of North America:

  • Chinese restrictions on the import of recyclable materials have forced the U.S. to find new markets for recovered materials, often at a reduced value
  • Recovered paper from schools, offices and stores no longer available due to COVID closures
  • Delays due to recycling facility safety changes and worker concerns over the virus and PPE
  • Recycling collection paused by some local governments after waste increase from more Americans working from home

Challenges in the global supply chain—container availability in particular—have also contributed to delays in box production. Scrap Recycling Industries reported that North American exporters of scrap commodities are having “extreme difficulties obtaining ocean shipping containers,” due to ocean carriers returning empty containers before U.S. exporters have a chance to use them. There have also been delays in getting pulp fibers used to make boxes into the recycling chain.


Manufacturers take measures to keep up with demand

Paper mills are running at full capacity to keep up with demand amid the “tightest market since 1994.” Some manufacturers are converting their machines to produce linerboard, used in the production of corrugated boxes, due to an unprecedented drop in demand for printing and writing paper. Others are taking measures such as investing in their own recycling facilities, contracting out to smaller companies, implementing price hikes due to increased freight and fiber costs—and even capping customer orders.


On-demand packaging accelerates retailers’ speed to market

Retailers struggling to get their hands on boxes or seeking shorter lead times should consider working with a partner who can provide on-demand packaging support. Visible operates its own corrugated sheet plant and has onsite machinery, materials and expertise to ramp up and manufacture custom-printed packaging quickly. What we offer:

  • Fast quotes
  • 1-2 week turnaround time
  • High-quality three-color print
  • Flexible run sizes
  • Consulting & design support

Visible also helps customers save on stock packaging supplies by passing on our bulk order savings. We build strong partnerships with key manufacturers, so whether you need peanuts or corrugated packaging, we offer the best products at the best prices.


Packaging engineered for optimization

Visible’s packaging engineers work with clients to tackle custom projects, right-size their packaging and minimize parcel costs. Cubic square feet, USPS pricing and a parcel analysis are all built into each packaging assessment. We also help clients optimize the amount of packing material being used to reduce costs while keeping shipment contents protected.


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Package design perfection

Visible’s custom packaging solutions include graphics support to ensure the look of your packaging reflects the quality of your brand. We provide:

  • In-house design support
  • 3D custom designs and renderings
  • Packaging mock-ups
  • Point-of-purchase displays
  • Corrugated prototypes

Retailers have faced enough challenges over the past year—getting packaging shouldn’t be one of them. Fill out our online contact form or call 801-300-4007 to chat with a packaging expert today.