Performance, Versatility, Impact: How Paperboard Strength Packaging Solutions Can Win Over Plastic Alternatives

Girl pouring dog food into bowl

Certain products require packaging that provides increased protection and/or compression strength. When considering alternatives to plastic for these applications, the circularity of the alternative is a crucial concern, but it is not the only one. Functionality and performance are equally important.

Why paperboard?

Paperboard strength packaging solutions can provide an excellent alternative to plastic packaging. Each one can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the application – whether that means reinforcing a particular area of the pack, designing packs to cope with heavy loads being stacked on top of them, adding a moisture barrier, and more.

Sustainable and future-proof

Consumers, legislators, brands and retailers are in broad agreement that the global reliance on plastic packaging must be reduced. Study after study shows consumer preference is shifting away from plastic and towards more sustainable, circular materials. Lawmakers around the world are placing increasingly strict limits on virgin plastic use in the form of plastic packaging taxes, EPR reforms, and increasing regulatory controls.

Paper and paper-based packaging is recovered at far higher rates than plastic. In the U.S. (2018 data) and Europe (2021 data), the rates for paper and paperboard recovery are 68 percent and 71 percent respectively, whereas plastic has a recovery rate of 5 percent and 38 percent respectively.


Paperboard packaging offers unparalleled versatility, enabling businesses to combine impressive strength and functionality with unique shapes and configurations. This means strength packaging can be used for many different applications across sectors, from beverage multipacks to household goods, club store packages, E-Commerce packaging, and more.

High-impact graphics and great on-shelf impact

Paperboard packs offer unique opportunities for high-impact branding that traditional plastic-based packs may not. These include film lamination enhancements and other premium finishes. They can also merchandise and stack on the shelf better than flexible plastic solutions.

Operational efficiency

Paperboard packaging may unlock new efficiencies if it can be supplied flat and assembled on-site, significantly increasing the number of packs per shipment, lowering transport costs, and increasing supply chain efficiencies. Strength packaging also allows for efficient palletizing and distribution, with retail-ready packaging that is self-palletizable.

The Graphic Packaging strength packaging portfolio

Our specialized strength packaging portfolio includes Z-Flute™ laminated cartons, heavyweight, high-caliper solid fiber packaging and litho-laminated corrugated boxes. These are the foundation on which we build bespoke solutions, in collaboration with our customers, by adjusting the substrate caliper, structural design, mix of wood-based and recycled fibers, and many other factors. This approach enables our innovation teams to develop the ideal solution for each customer on a case-by-case basis.

Z-Flute laminated cartons

The Z-Flute process involves strategically laminating the inside of a carton, providing extra support to load-bearing areas. This creates a folding carton that has the strength characteristics of a corrugated box and helps the pack to perform in chilled or moist environments, making it an ideal solution for dry goods, coffee, and more.

Self-palletized Z-Flute packs eliminate the need for cases and trays and are therefore ideal for club store packs, offering expanded billboard space and a superior consumer experience when compared to plastic-based equivalents.

Heavyweight folding cartons

Our heavyweight folding cartons use high-caliper paperboard and unique structural design elements to create a high-performance solution for the most testing conditions. This format combines the visual appeal of a traditional folding carton with the strength of a denser substrate, making it a great all-round option for beverage multipacks, dry goods, pet care products, and more.

Adding to this versatility, heavyweight cartons can be run on standard packaging lines, so require minimal investment to incorporate them into an existing folding carton portfolio.

Litho-laminated corrugated packaging

Litho-laminated corrugated packaging combines a printed top sheet with a back liner and a fluted medium to create a visually striking corrugated box.

This format is available with a wide range of flute profiles as well as with the IntegraFlute™ bag-in-box option with custom barrier sheets inside. This ensures it is suitable for a broad range of applications, from consumer dry goods to pet care products.