Corrugated Board and Coatings – a Sustainable Option for Packaging

It should come as no surprise that the packaging industry is projected to see huge growth over the next 10 years. As eCommerce continues to grow in popularity, it fuels the packaging industry growth as more and more consumers start to regularly shop online.
Packaging manufacturers are not only having to increase their output to meet the demand, but they have also had to expand their distribution network as citizens in emerging economies across the globe,  participate in the eCommerce revolution.

The Rise of E-Commerce

Since its inception in 1994, Amazon has continued to drive the global e-commerce market, setting the trend and inspiring countless local copies of its business model in countries around the world.
In South Africa’s ‘conservative’ market, e-commerce took some time to take off thanks to public concerns around online payment risks and parcel delivery. But with the arrival of Takealot (who aggressively marketed their site) and the use of door-to-door courier services for delivery, South Africa’s e-commerce industry took off and has been growing substantially.
2020’s global pandemic also forced South African’s to adopt a digital approach to many things – from working remotely, to shopping online and using delivery services. Online retailers and delivery services (such as Uber and Mr Delivery) have seen a significant increase in trade over the last year, and it looks set to continue as South Africans become increasingly comfortable with the convenience that online purchasing offers.

More Parcels Equals More Packaging

The global growth of e-commerce has fueled the growth of the packaging industry. From boxes to bags, films to tape, foam to pellets, cartons, labels and more – the packaging industry has not only had to keep up with demand, but it has also had to invent new materials and increase its product offerings as the variety of items that needed to be safely fitted and delivered in a box or bag, grew.
This has led to a lot of innovation in terms of packaging machines and materials. But it has also resulted in the packaging industry accounting for a significant portion of the print industry market share. It is also the fastest-growing sector of the global print industry.
Within the packaging industry, food and beverage packaging continues to dominate, as does the use of plastic materials in the manufacture of packaging products.

Trends and Innovation

With the increase in e-commerce, brands are constantly looking for innovative ways to stand out and differentiate their products from those of their competitors. Consumers are swayed by creative and ‘cool’ packaging and by the ‘unboxing experience’ itself – the act of receiving and opening their package. Many brands are focusing on how the products are packed, parcelled and presented to the customer when delivered, in addition to their design efforts for individual product packaging.
The trend of individualised/customised packaging is also proving to be popular with consumers, echoing the popularity of book-of-one or print-on-demand products. This has also resulted in some equipment innovations, to cater for this growing market.


Globally the world is facing a climate change crisis, and this is fueling a move towards sustainable practices across all industries, including the packaging sector. As consumers become more conscious about their purchases, brands are under increasing pressure to package their products in eco-friendly materials. In the past, the options were limited and eco-friendly packaging materials weren’t exactly considered to be ‘cool’, ‘trendy’ or ‘innovative’.
But things are changing fast, as the drive towards sustainable packaging propels the industry forward and in creative and diverse directions. These days innovation and sustainability seem to go hand-in-hand.

Corrugated Bored

As a packaging material, corrugated board has been around since 1871 and has seen a handful of innovations since then – including becoming the packaging material of choice for fruit in the 1950s. It is impact-resistant, has good shock absorption, is rigid and yet light-weight, and doesn’t tear easily, which is why it is perfect for so many different packaging applications.
It is also an excellent source of fibre for recycling, making it a popular choice for environmentally-conscious brands and consumers. But it has its limitations when it comes to moisture. When wet, corrugated board loses its rigidity. So when it comes to products that need to be transported in a moisture-rich environment or ones that produce a lot of condensation, plastic packaging (such as polyboard) is generally preferred over corrugated board.

Coatings Change Everything

As the demand for eco-friendly packaging grows, brands are scrambling to find sustainable options. Whilst the use of recycled plastic is an option, the reality is that plastics are expensive and difficult to recycle in comparison to paper. This is where coatings step in – transforming paper and board into a viable option for packaging applications that would typically require plastic.

Last last year WEILBURGER Graphics GmbH launched a waterproof barrier coating, the SENOLITH® WB BARRIER COATING 350025 – an environmentally friendly and food-safe solution that allows for the manufacture of waterproof cardboard packaging. This type of packaging has a multitude of applications and can be used in place of plastic packaging.
To illustrate the potential for unique packaging, WEILBURGER partnered with a brewery and a carton manufacturer, to create a demo product that showcased the coating’s waterproof properties. The creatively designed carton housed two bottles and featured an ice tray, essentially transforming the carton into a cooler box.
This is just one example of the coating’s possible applications and the coating is being tested and trailed on frozen food cartons with promising results so far.
WEILBURGER’s food-certified offerings also include fat-resistant and odour sensitive coatings. Combine these properties with waterproofing, and the possible packaging options for brands are endless. There is so much room for innovation, and whilst we are seeing a lot of this with international brands, we have yet to see South African brands taking advantage of the opportunities these coatings present.
Hopefully, as brands are exposed to these types of options from local packaging companies, we’ll see some creativity with sustainable packaging by South African brands.
At Thunderbolt we are very keen to assist our clients in exploring new and inventive packaging applications. So don’t hesitate to contact us for more information about the WEILBURGER coatings products.