The cost of transportation, the cost of raw materials used in packaging and concerns about sustainability have increased in recent years, and packers, manufacturers and others are doing what they can to reduce the amount of materials used in their packaging.
The result, sources said, is more product packed in fewer containers, more efficient loads and more manageable costs.
According to the Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based Corrugated Packaging Alliance, that industry has worked with its customers to reduce the amount of corrugated material per unit by more than 20% in the last 15 years.
“It’s all about the amount of fiber that’s in a box,” said Dwight Schmidt, executive director of the alliance, which has made available through its members a calculator that can determine a container’s carbon footprint.
Walt Tindell, president and chief executive officer of Calpine Containers Inc., Fresno, Calif., said the price of linerboard has increased 23% this year, resulting in higher prices for corrugated boxes.
“These increases will force us all to be increasingly creative in the reduction of fiber and more efficient designs and uses,” he said.
Marketing director Roger Pepperl said Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers Inc. is using kraft cardboard for 20% of its boxes. He said kraft cardboard requires 10% less energy to produce boxes and costs slightly less than bleached board.
“Kraft also uses about 10% less pulp to produce,” he said, “which is great for the environment and also gives a great marketing image on organic products.”
Pepperl said Stemilt’s new box for bagged apples uses less cardboard, yet is stronger than the container previously used. It also costs less and can hold two more 3-pound bags.
Stemilt also has reduced the use of corner boards on its pallets with Rapid Rope, a recyclable plastic that pulls pallets together more than standard stretch wrap, Pepperl said.
“Corner boards are expensive, hard to recycle, and some don’t recycle due to plastic in the composition,” said Pepperl, who added that the change has saved the company time and money.
Plastic-based packaging prices also have also gone up, said Tindell, who noted July 9 that plastic resin costs are 25% higher than at the same time last year. Prices were even higher, he said, during the first quarter.
“This movement just makes purchasing decisions much more difficult,” he said. “In the case of plastic, many products are imported and shipping costs have also had dramatic increases. Manufacturers and distributors have reduced their margins to maintain their market share.”