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Paperboard is the preferred choice for packaging materials for a number of industries, including food and food service. Its market share is expected to expand even further in the coming years due to greater environmental consciousness among consumers. Recent studies show that 71% of respondents were more likely to purchase products from brands that package in paperboard or cardboard than other materials.

For companies looking to package both new and existing products in paperboard folding cartons, it’s important to understand the different types of paperboard available and which grade is best suited for their product’s packaging.

What Is Paperboard

Paperboard is a thick, rigid, yet lightweight material made from compressed wood pulp and/or recycled material fibers. Because it’s made from sustainable and recycled materials, it’s an eco-friendly alternative to other packaging options. Paperboard folding cartons are highly versatile and are often used in the food and food service, health and beauty, and medical industries.

Advantages of Paperboard Packaging

Sustainably sourced:
Paperboard is made from recycled materials or sustainably sourced wood pulp, reducing environmental impact.

Lower weight contributes to decreased transportation costs.

Versatile options:
Multiple thicknesses and folding carton styles are available to suit a wide range of products.

Paperboard is a more affordable material than other packaging alternatives like plastic or glass.

Scalable production:
Manufacturing paperboard packaging, including printing, is highly efficient.

Types of Paperboard

There are many different grades of paperboard available, but the following are some of the more commonly used options.

Clay Coated Newsback (CCN) Paperboard

CCN paperboard, also called coated recycled paperboard (CRB), is a popular low-cost, eco-friendly choice for food packaging. It’s made from a blend of recycled materials like newspapers, paper products, and discarded corrugated cardboard. It has a smooth, white clay coating and semi-gloss finish, making it ideal for printed graphics. The finish also offers a significant barrier to moisture and other environmental contaminants.

Uncoated Unbleached Kraft (UUK)

UUK paperboard is an unbleached, uncoated, single-ply paperboard material. Because it doesn’t go through any bleaching or coatings, this material is brown in color and fully recyclable. It offers excellent tear resistance and durability for cartons while still having good printability, even when compared to coated and bleached alternatives.

Solid Bleached Sulfate (SBS) Paperboard

SBS paperboard is a premium medium-thick material made from chemically whitened wood pulp. The chemical bleaching process leaves a white, smooth surface optimal for printing and graphics. While this paperboard is more expensive than other options, it offers a more high-end look and feel.

Coated Natural Kraft (CNK) Paperboard

CNK paperboard, also called solid unbleached sulfate (SUS) is a standard option made from virgin unbleached softwood pulp. The top layer features a clay-coated matte finish while the underside is uncoated. This material is popular for frozen food since it is effective at resisting moisture and dust intrusion.