Rigid box manufacturing section at Creatives (TCPL Packaging group). Photo PSA

According to current research reports, the global carton industry is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 5% till 2033 to perhaps more than US$ 770 billion from the 2023 figure of approximately US$ 400 billion. In India we see growth coming from eCommerce, food and beverages, FMCG, household products, and white goods. The variety of cartons keeps increasing from the simple monocarton, liquid packaging laminates, solid board luxury boxes, litho-laminated corrugated cartons and plain and white or bleached liner corrugated cartons. The litho-laminated e, f, and g-flute or micro-fluted cartons that incorporate recycled liners are seen as an economical solution providing a combination of better compression and protection while retaining their stand-out value on the shelf.

There is a perception that paper-based packaging or cartons are more sustainable than flexible packaging and there is some movement in this direction in the country too – although some of the special papers and coatings required to create barrier properties are not yet locally available as off-the-shelf inputs. Additionally, some of the uses of these cartons with barrier properties come from start-ups, niche and boutique products with volumes too low to justify the procurement and logistics costs of importing specialty papers.

Notably, Jitendra Rohilla of Komori India says, “Right now, many of our 6 and 7-color automated offset press installations are taking place at packaging converters as that industry is growing and will continue to grow. There are multiple factors for this growth including our small packaging consumption per capita, and the increasing wealth, young population, and the increasing focus on hygiene and shelf impact and shelf life.”

Venugopal Menon of Bobst India points out that the growth in packaging machinery is now driven by automation. He attributes the current growth to an increasing number of converters seeking automation solutions. Discussing Bobst Inda’s performance in 2023, Menon noted that except for the corrugated segment, the company witnessed positive outcomes across the folding carton, flexible, and label segments. “We hope that the investment cycle in the corrugated board cycle will come back in 2024.”

In light of the changing needs of carton converters globally, Bobst has recently enhanced the automation and connectivity of its folder gluer portfolio by introducing a new generation of Expertfold, Visionfold, and Novafold machines.

TCPL, a packaging converter that produces both cartons and flexible packaging, recently entered the rigid box segment after acquiring a 100% stake in Creative Offset in late 2023. It commissioned three Zhongke automatic rigid box-making lines for manufacturing rigid and luxury boxes for mobile phones, smart watches, wearables, and the speciality gift packaging segment. Stating India has a lot of cell phone manufacturers and exporters, Pooja Rajpal, director of Zhongke India comments that business is good in India since the cellphone technology is changing fast, and everybody wants the latest phones – and the manufacturers need boxes for these.

One could see some of the impetus or energy in the local carton industry at Pamex 2024 in Mumbai, where companies like Komori, DGM, Bobst, and others announced several deals at the show. DGM India announced ten deals for its die-cutters, folder gluers, and flute laminators at Pamex. This businesslike optimism persists even in the face of currently flat top-line growth among converters because of the benign price of raw materials. While converted carton tonnage has increased in the past year, the soft prices of paperboard have led to modest increases in top-line revenues.

While research reports forecast a carton industry boom in the coming decade, the Asia Pacific region is emerging as a particularly lucrative market due to its high population, rapid industrialization and increasing consumer goods demand. Compact, modular and increasingly automated cartoning machines with quick changeover capabilities will gain traction with the need for flexibility and adaptability in handling diverse product lines.

Packaging South Asia — resilient, growing and impactful — daily, monthly — always responsive

The multi-channel B2B in print and digital 17-year-old platform matches the industry’s growth trajectory. The Indian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Middle East packaging industries are looking beyond the resilience of the past three years. They are resuming capacity expansion and diversification, with high technology and automation in new plants and projects.

As we present our 2024 publishing plan, India’s real GDP growth for the financial year ending 31 March 2024 will exceed 6%. The packaging industry growth will match the GDP growth in volume terms and surpass it by at least 3% in terms of nominal growth allowing for price inflation in energy, raw materials, consumables, and capital equipment.

The capacity for flexible film manufacturing in India increased by 45% over the past four years. With orders in place, we expect another 20% capacity addition in 2024 and 2025. Capacities in monocartons, corrugation, aseptic liquid packaging, and labels are growing similarly. As the consumption story returns over the next six months, we expect demand to return and exceed the growth trajectory of previous years. The numbers are positive for most of the economies in the region – and as shown by our analytics, our platform increasingly reaches and influences these.

For responsible and sustainable packaging, with its attendant regulations and compliances, there is significant headroom to grow in India and the region. Our coverage includes the entire packaging supply chain – from concept to shelf and to waste collection, sorting, and recycling.

We target brand owners, product managers, raw material suppliers, packaging designers and converters, and recyclers. This is a large and complex canvas – the only thing that can work is your agile thinking and innovation together with our continuous learning and persistence.

The coming year looks to be an up year in this region, and this is the right time to plan your participation and marketing communication – in our rich and highly targeted business platform with human resources on the ground. Share your thoughts and plans to inspire and mobilize our editorial and advertising teams!

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– Naresh Khanna (25 October 2023)

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