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Paperboard And The Custom Folding Carton

Although many non-industry people refer o paperboard as cardboard, chipboard, or card stock, these are very broad terms that apply to a wide range of paper products. Paperboard is the industry name for the thicker sheets of paper used primarily for product packaging. The paper is generally between 0.008” – 0.048“ (in printer speak, 8 point – 48 point), and is produced using a variety of virgin and recycled paper materials. Paperboard is used extensively in custom product packaging because it is environmentally friendly, has excellent print qualities, is strong, yet lightweight, and can easily be cut, scored and glued into boxes and other packaging.

Folding carton is a box that folds flat when not in use. Seen quite often in retail, custom folding cartons are the go-to product box for most packaged goods. Think about a box for a deck of playing cards – remove the cards, open the top and bottom of the box, and the box folds flat. This box is known as a tuck end box, and is a classic folding carton style box. All the boxes you see on this website are paperboard folding cartons.


A Little History

The first paperboard box was created in 1817 in England, and the first paperboard folding carton was introduced around 1860. Then in 1915 the gable top milk carton was patented, and first used for dairy products in 1935. A folding carton box is simply a box that folds flat when not in use. Today, paperboard folding carton boxes are used by industries everywhere. Most retail stores couldn’t get by without them!

Packaging Considerations

When designing custom packaging, one consideration is the lifespan of your packaging. You are going to need a product package that can withstand being filled, stacked, packed, and survive being shipped across the country. In addition, it needs to be able to stand up to repeated handling by vendors filling shelves and inquisitive customers. And if it’s going to be used repeatedly such as a tea or cookie box, it needs to withstand frequent opening and closing. In the end, the packaging needs to look as good on the shelf as when it was first filled at your facility. Your sales depend on it – a scratched or crushed box with good product in it will be returned to you for a credit. So, the folding carton style and paperboard thickness you choose for your packaging is an important consideration.

Paper Thickness

Although there’s a wide range in paperboard thickness, box manufacturers in general use paper between 0.016” – 0.024“ for custom made retail packaging. To put the thickness in perspective, 0.024” thick paperboard is credit card thickness. Box packaging on paper less than 0.016” thickness is getting pretty flimsy, unless the product is very small. The chart below gives you a good idea how to determine the thickness of the paperboard needed for your custom package.


Setup Boxes
(also known as rigid boxes)

In contrast to folding cartons, setup boxes are a rigid box; they don’t fold flat. Most board games such as a Monopoly box, or a traditional, two-piece shoe box, are setup boxes – the boxes are already erected, or “set up”, and they usually consist of the box with a separate top. These boxes use much thicker paperboard, and the paperboard is laminated, or wrapped, with a high quality printed, or metallic foiled sheet. The result is a very sturdy box. The downside to a setup box is they are difficult to store in large volumes because they don’t fold down, and they can get very expensive in smaller quantities because of the extra printing/laminating operations that go into making the box. This style of paperboard box we do not manufacture.


One Last Note...

The Box Co-op is a leader in manufacturing paperboard folding cartons (well, not really, but it sounded good. In fact, there are many excellent folding carton manufacturers out there). However, we are a different sort of box company. We specialize in custom finishes and coatings that add polish and pop to your retail packaging. Print quality is pretty standard between box manufacturers, but it is the finishing coatings that provide the texture and highlights that result in printed boxes that stand out from the competition.

Furthermore, many box companies make folding cartons on the side; we are true specialists—we do not make anything but folding cartons—so when you want that dedicated experience on your side, the Box Co-op is your best choice.

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