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White is the new brown in corrugated

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White is the new brown in corrugated

May 28, 2012 - 03:54

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM, May 28, 2012 (RISI) -Transformed from being purely a transit pack material, containerboard is making big steps forward in being able to reinforce a brand's position in the marketplace.

The cause of this transition is the growth of white liners - mainly driven from the growing trend for high impact corrugated packaging in the retail ready or shelf ready market areas, and European liner manufacturers are embracing this.

Korsnäs, a leading producer of virgin fiber-based packaging material is seeing a significant increase in the amount of its white top kraftliner range required from converters and the need for the corrugated outer/display pack to match the appearance of the primary packaging.

End user director Darryl Rice comments: "Retail ready packaging is appearing directly in front of the customer and there is a need for improved print quality and overall presentation which white liners offer, rather than the bulk standard, commodity appearance of conventional brown."

This development is coupled with the development of advanced printing techniques. Rice explains: "The availability of digital print has helped drive the switch from brown to white such as more pre-printing and litho laminated packs using litho offset printing which is more suited to coated white liners."

Considerable investment by material producers has led to increased quality. Rice comments: "White test liner quality has improved but also the leading manufacturers of coated white top kraft liners have significantly improved the surface qualities and overall improvement of the materials to enhance performance and appearance."

"The marketers need to get to us somehow"

The reason behind the demand for white liner goes much deeper according to Smurfit Kappa Print Vision director Paul Cahill. Producing corrugated packaging that stands out on shelf using eye-catching graphics is a way of thinking for Smurfit Kappa UK and its status as a world leader in corrugated packaging is a testament to its success. Three of its converting plants in the UK - based in Essex, Staffordshire, and Scotland under the title of Smurfit Kappa Print Vision are leading the way in pre and post-print technology.

Cahill feels the growth can be traced back to marketeers and brand owners having less of a choice to effectively promote products. With print and TV advertising down, the retail environment is a key medium to attract the consumer. Cahill explains: "The marketeers need to get to us somehow and they are doing it instore by the use of packaging."

Smurfit Kappa UK has noticed a 60 % growth in decorative packaging partly fuelled by the need to stand out on shelf. Cahill also feels that the shopper marketing principles of Attention, Desire, Interest and Action (AIDA), which create impulse purchases plays a part. "The benefit of using a premium white liner is that it allows the full chain of AIDA to be used. Brown doesn't cut it with this type of packaging. It doesn't wash with the consumer," adds Cahill.

Sector trends are something that global paper maker Sappi has been monitoring closely with the containerboard market. The company feels that recent reports such as Pira International's The Future of Retail Ready Packaging to 2016 are key indicators of a pattern in growth. The report detailed that despite the global recession negatively impacting growth in a number of print markets, Pira statistics point to a healthy future for retail ready packaging. Volume is also predicted to grow from almost 19 million tonnes in 2010 to more than 24 million tonnes by 2016.

Much more color

Moreover, new printing technologies like digital and improved flexo printing possibilities will enable attractive primary packaging, and are also increasing the demand for decorative liners with superior printing surfaces.

Its development of its top liner grade Fusion has been in response to existing and future demand. Sappi's marketing manager new business, Kerstin Dietze explains: "In the 1980s just three per cent of corrugated board was printed with three or more colors, now the figure is more than 18 %"

Fusion also has the added benefit of using lightweight materials to achieve a high stiffness, creating a light yet robust product that saves materials and therefore more sustainable. High brightness and whiteness affords excellent color reproduction, while the high performance on converting lines ensures smooth and fast production."

The demand for white liners has led to significant mill investments. Metsä Board, a European market leader in coated white top kraftliner has recently completed a rebuild at its Kemi linerboard mill in Finland. The company invested EUR 16 million in upgrading the coating section at the mill last year. The major elements of the rebuild included a second coating station and drying equipment, with Metso as the main supplier.

The launch of two new double-coated grades Kemiart Graph+ and Kemiart Lite+ followed. The double coating provides a smoother and glossier surface, enhancing printability with improved ink laydown, brighter colors and more accurate detail. Kemiart Graph+ has been developed for flexo preprint, as well as offset, screen and water-base inkjet printing; Kemiart Lite+ is designed for flexo postprint. They join Kemiart Ultra and Kemiart Brite in a range that is designed to have a linerboard suitable for every application.

"The promotional role of corrugated packaging in retail stores continues to grow as consumers are attracted by high quality but sustainable packaging," concludes Metsä's Risto Auero, VP sales linerboards. "At the same time brand owners will continue looking for accurate color reproduction combined with excellent print results."