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Is It Just a Box?

By John Burgess

November 13, 2023

The company I lead is more than just a supplier to the corrugated box industry. By the very nature of our product, we cross over into many different areas of flexo and gravure printing, but when I am in the hotel bar and restaurant on my own or playing a foursome at my golf club, I am always asked, “What do you do?” And I usually respond that I manage a company that is a supplier to the corrugated box industry.

Why do I respond like this? I have three main reasons:

  • It’s a great industry to be involved in.
  • It has some of the best people you will ever run across in life, not just business.
  • My company’s reputation and brand identity are deeply rooted in this industry.

But is it just a box? I cringe when I hear someone use the term “cardboard box.” There must be a better way to explain the product to receive more attention from the consumer.

It’s the ultimate way to inexpensively ship and protect a vast array of products. From electronics to foodstuffs, corrugated packaging is the go-to for protection and shipping. It’s lightweight, it’s relatively inexpensive, and it’s certainly fit for the purpose. With all
of the boxes that end up on my doorstep and on those of millions of other consumers around the globe, how many
do you see crushed or damaged? The answer is very few, as it’s a very resilient medium that even the overstuffed parcel service vehicles don’t seem to be able to damage.

With modern high-speed flexo and digital print, a drab sheet can be turned into a work of art that can display a facsimile of the manufacturer’s product and catch the consumer’s eye in the milliseconds required. The trend to inside-and-outside printing is now taking the art to a new level; with
bright, eye-catching colors and graphics on the inside of the box, this phenomenon has created the catchphrase “the unboxing experience,” which has taken hold with many YouTubers and TikTokkers.

Corrugated packaging is also incredibly recyclable. An average corrugated box can be recycled up to seven times before the fibers are too short to make paper with. Reducing the size of landfills and preventing oceans from becoming full of waste are perhaps the most important results of using the medium. David Attenborough’s Planet Earth did more for the corrugated industry than most understand. The viewer sees oceans full of plastic waste, but do they understand?

Given the above, is there a better way to explain the industry we are very proudly a part of? It’s difficult to call it a highly engineered, protective work of art that is totally recyclable, as most people won’t have a clue what you are talking about. Maybe after all these years, all the engineering of sophisticated machinery, and the billions invested to make it lighter and stronger, “box” is the best way to describe it!

John Burgess is president of Pamarco’s flexo division and vice chairman of AICC’s Associate board.