Student Question about Corrugated Use in North America

Christoph asks,

Hi Ralph, I was wondering if you may help me with a few questions. I am a German Master Student studying Printing Technology at CalPoly State University. The topic is about the corrugated packaging market and the most common used papers and purpose of the boards.

Therefore, I would like to ask you if you can provide me with information for the following questions:

  1. Which are the three most produced board qualities (e.g. Brown Kraftliner 35# – recycled fluting 30# – Brown Kraftliner 35#: C-flute) in the Northern American market?
  2. What is the most common purposes for corrugated boxes? (shipping, shelf-ready packaging, …)
  3. On average how many colors are printed on the above requested corrugated board qualities?

I am very thankful for any information you can provide.


Hi Christoph, happy to share a little information with a student of the industry.

  1. The most common combined board grade is 33/35 test liner / 23# test medium / 33# test liner.  While virgin kraft linerboard is still present, the US is about 50/50 new verses used fibre.  In Europe this is very different.  Mills that use the newest papermaking technology can use 28/26/23 C flute constructions.  We make heavier boxes here than you do in Europe.
  2. We ship durable and nondurable goods in corrugated packaging.  If you want this broken down by manufacturing segment I can provide that.  The biggest market is food.  Yes there is shelf ready packaging and displays.
  3. On average we probably print three colors via flexo. There is a great deal of four-color work done, but there is still a significant amount of two-color and one-color work being done (think Amazon, Home Shopping Network, etc.). Digital is gaining ground quickly, but it is not the ideal process for most boxes. It has its niche and its popularity is growing especially in the graphic market. However, digital has yet to reach the speeds necessary to make it ideal for high throughput orders. You’ll want to keep your eye on it though as the technology is continually evolving.

— Ralph

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