Secondary packaging is in the spotlight as packagers strive to reduce, reuse and recycle.

With retailers demanding greater value and users demanding reduced cost, secondary packaging is under the microscope, according to PMMI’s latest report. TheSecondary Packaging Market Research Studyfound that all respondents are investigating and re-evaluating their secondary-packaging containers.

“Every study participant is looking at substrates, weight, cube size and how to fit more in a cubic foot,” said PMMI President and CEO Charles D. Yuska.

Corrugated fiberboard is under particular scrutiny because the amount used impacts overall costs. According to PMMI’s research, 80% of companies are currently using regular slotted containers (RSCs) for secondary packaging; within that group, 51% are decreasing usage by 5-60%.

RSC users are moving toward trays with overwrap or Bliss Boxes, according to the report. Companies already using trays are changing to pads with overwrap, and shrink wrap only when the product allows.

Nearly 50% of packaging professionals interviewed for the study predicted a decrease in corrugated usage, with specially designed cartons filling the void. Twenty-four percent predict no change, saying that packagers will strike a balance between lighter weight and strength. And 21% foresee an increase in the use of corrugated fiberboard material due to Internet sales.

“It’s important to note that there can be trade-offs between functionality and costs,” Yuska said. “The packaging professionals we spoke to all agreed that one of their tasks is to balance ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ and not compromise packaging functionality.”

Also under consideration are alternative materials and the recycled content in corrugated fiberboard. Each change impacts secondary packaging performance, as well as the machinery and primary packaging involved.

“Each factor is connected,” Yuska said. “Recycled content in corrugated fiberboard can affect machinery performance, and the type of primary packaging directly impacts choices in secondary packaging. Rigid packaging for liquids, for example, requires less secondary packaging than flex packaging.”

The report includes a list of alternative materials, including the corn-based bio-plastic polylactic acid (PLA); Hexacomb, a honeycomb product made from container board and starch; thin-seal polypropylene; reductions in flute construction and micro flutes; and folding boxes in new ways to reduce corrugated fiberboard.

Many factors are behind the drive for change. Sustainability accounts for 70%, with respondents noting it as a goal in improving their secondary packaging. However, the study results indicate that sustainability is often as much a means to an end as it is a goal unto itself. Cost savings, customer requests, strategic initiatives to ‘go green’ and reducing transportation costs are other leading drivers for changing secondary packaging.

“Sustainability is a primary driver, but the goals are often the gains that come as part of achieving more sustainable solutions,” Yuska said. “Improved operations, cost savings and lower transportation costs were the top three drivers that participants listed.”

For the study, PMMI researchers interviewed packaging professionals from consumer packaged goods (CPG) firms in the food, beverage, dairy, electronics and personal-care markets; materials suppliers; and contract packagers. The 67 participating CPG firms included four of the top 25 food manufacturers (two in the top 10); three of the top five beverage companies (five in the top 15, including the number-one specialty coffee retailer); two of the top 15 electronics companies; and the three leading paper companies.

About PMMI

PMMI is a trade association whose more than 540 member manufacture packaging and packaging-related converting machinery, commercially available packaging machinery components, containers, and materials in the United States and Canada. PMMI’s goal is to be the leading global resource for packaging, and its mission is to improve and promote members’ abilities to meet their customers’ needs. The association organizes the PACK EXPO trade shows: PACK EXPO International, PACK EXPO Las Vegas and EXPO PACK Mexico. For more information,

For more information, or to purchase the report, contact Paula Feldman, PMMI Director of Research and Statistics, at (703) 243-8555 or e-mail