Before folding cartons, packages were made by hand and held together by tacks and strings. The first folding carton can be traced back to Birbingham, England during the 1880s where it was created by Charles Henry Foyle. During this period, carton packaging was only used for luxury items like jewelry. 

It was eventually realized that carton printing and cutting could be done on the same machine. This new process allowed folding cartons to be produced on a mass scale. In response to this, companies and brands were able to utilize folding cartons as an inexpensive packaging option that also gave them the ability to customize the design. This led to significant growth in the packaging industry, and folding cartons are still being used today. 

What is a Folding Carton?

Folding cartons have evolved since they were first introduced and now contribute over $110 billion to the packaging industry. The process involves folding a flat printed, paper-based carton into its final shape where it is then held together by glue. 

Folding carton boxes are not limited to just a standard, rectangular box. There are different carton styles and sizes that can accommodate your end-use application or product. The options are limitless, and they can include shapes such as pyramids, spheres and details like flower closures. Depending on the product, different materials and packaging technologies are used to produce folding cartons.

Folding Carton Packaging Materials

Folding carton manufacturers have developed paperboard packaging options that can accommodate most brands' products. Three of the most common carton packaging materials are Solid Bleach Substrate (SBS), Clay-Coated Newsback (CCNB) and Kraft. We will go into a little more detail about each packaging material below. 

Solid Bleach Substrate (SBS)

SBS is the most commonly used material for folding carton packaging. This is a basic white box with a typical thickness of 0.018pt. Other thicknesses are available depending on the product being packaged. These boxes are commonly used in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and personal care markets.

Clay Coated Newsback (CCNB)

CCNB is another popular material used for producing folding cartons. This material is a  product with the outside of the board featuring a smooth surface and the back of the board a grey color made from recycled newsprint. Cereal and cracker boxes are a great example of CCNB folding carton packaging. 

folding carton cereal box The Clay-Coated Newsback material is used for packaging dry foods.


Kraft folding cartons are a great option if you are looking for environmentally friendly packaging. The benefits of kraft packaging is that it is recyclable, biodegradable and compostable within 7-12 weeks. This type of material utilizes kraft paperboard to present a natural look that can be combined with printing and design to appeal to consumers. 

Types of Printing for Folding Carton Packaging

Once the type of material, shape and size of your folding carton is selected, it is then time to consider your printing options. The two types of printing styles to create the artwork on the folding cartons are offset printing and digital printing. 

Offset Printing: With offset printing, the ink of the image is transferred from a printing plate to a rubber cylinder and then rolled onto the paperboard.

Digital Printing: Digital printing is also commonly used, and this form of printing does not require any plates to get the ink on the paper.

Types of Packaging Coatings for Folding Cartons

The type of coating/finishes used on your packaging is just as important as the material and printing if you want the products to stand out. Remember, one of the goals of packaging is to attract and engage the consumer. 

There are various types of coatings that can be used to achieve the intended look of a product. Gloss, matte, stain and pearlescent are just some of the options that can be used to enhance the visual appeal of the package. There are also effects like stamping, embossing and foil stamping to achieve the desired effect, as well as windowing that allows the consumer to view the product. 

folding carton packaging options Folding cartons allow for packaging design with colors and embellishments.

How Can MJS Packaging Help?

Our resident folding carton expert Debbie Ott is always here to answer any of your packaging questions. You can contact MJS Packaging or talk with one of our knowledgeable packaging solutions specialists by calling (800) 915-2262.

Keep in mind the paper industry is dealing with the same supply issues that we are seeing across the packaging industry. We are here to help you plan ahead, explore alternatives and communicate with you to make sure you are getting the best packaging options available.