Print Packaging Opportunities and Trends

There are two key trends that are opening new opportunities in print packaging, especially folding cartons. The two trends are in sustainability and digital printing technology. Used together, they can be a powerful marketing combo for print service providers.

The Sustainable Advantage in Print Packaging

Sustainability trends in print packaging


While plastic isn't going to go away anytime soon, there is plenty of anti-plastic sentiment among consumers along with stricter waste management and recycling regulations throughout the country. This is driving the move towards renewable paperboard packaging and bioplastics.

Paperboard packaging, when compared to various plastic packaging techniques, can be the eco-friendly leader for buyers who want sustainable packaging. There are many recycled and recyclable boards that are suitable for folding cartons (also called unit cartons.) Offset printing can also use vegetable-based inks that are recyclable and far less toxic than petroleum-based inks.

Digitally Printed Folding Cartons

Digital folding cartons offer several additional benefits that appeal to manufacturers in any industry.


Short-run digital print packaging is inherently sustainable. It requires near-zero waste for make ready and running. Digital print minimizes the use of toxic chemicals and supplies. Today there is a wide range of recyclable and recycled paperboards available for digital folding cartons.

Smaller Print Runs

Fast, economical turnaround means no more wasteful and costly excess inventories. Small print runs with fast turnaround also appeals to companies that use just-in-time purchasing.

Customization and Versioning

Digital print technology allows for nearly unlimited versioning or segmenting. This means a manufacturer can create variations for SKU, colors, flavors, geographic location, languages, and more, without the need for additional plates or make ready.

QR codes, AR codes, barcodes, and RFID codes can be printed with either digital or offset methods.

What This Means for Print Service Providers

This duo of sustainable features and digital printing offers excellent growth opportunities for print service providers today.

✔️ Short-run capabilities erase the financial and logistical barriers to entry in the packaging market that's associated with long-run packaging. Small companies today can affordably create packaging for almost any retail or B2B product, and they can start with small quantities.

✔️ It's an opportunity to expand your client base and to sell more to existing clients. Diversification is good not only for revenue, but for long-term business stability.

✔️ It positions your company as an industry leader with the use of cutting-edge printing technology and eco-friendly print practices demanded by print buyers. It's a smart way to differentiate.

As print service providers, we owe it to our clients to show them how print can help grow their business with the use of modern print technology and sustainable practices.

At Western Trade Printing we have a commitment to eco-friendly print processes both digital and offset, in our production materials and supplies, and in our paper and substrates.

For a quote on your latest folding carton or other print project, call our estimating department at 559-251-8595 ext. 1.

For more on additional print opportunities evolving thanks to trends in sustainability and digital printing, read these two related articles:

Direct Mail Opportunities

Short-Run Book Opportunities