The future of cardboard packaging in the UK

Are cardboard boxes the future of packaging? Or is there something revolutionary on the horizon?

As threats of new regulation are thrown around, and climate change looms ever present on the horizon, many people are asking the question about what the future of cardboard packaging will look like in the UK and around the world. 

In this blog, we’ll be talking through some of the shifts in the cardboard packaging industry that we’ve seen, plus some predictions about where we think the industry will head over the next few years.


Is the packaging industry changing?

For years, most retail was handled in brick-and-mortar stores, with product packaging being optimised to suit this environment. 

While this still is the case for many businesses across the country, we’ve seen a significant shift to ecommerce over the last few years. This transition to online sales has been accelerated by the pandemic, with many consumers growing accustomed to ordering online.

In fact, this has been so pronounced that we’ve seen an explosion in demand for online retail, with UK online sales growing 74% through 2020 alone. 

While the pandemic has a part to play in this explosion, many also suggest that this is another side effect of Brexit.

Between the ecommerce boom, the pandemic and Brexit, demand for cardboard packaging has gone through the roof, with there being distinct shortages in many industries. This isn’t just restricted to the UK, either. Many countries around the world have experienced a cardboard box shortage over the last two years. 

What changes should we expect?

Packaging products have come on leaps and bounds over the last decade, with designs and processes being optimised year on year. 

Over the next few years, we should all expect regulations on what our packaging can be made from, and how best materials should be used in an attempt to combat rapid climate change. 

We’ve seen this coming, which is why we’ve decided to get a head start. At ESS Packaging, we are personally invested in making our packaging products as efficient as possible, for both our customers and for the planet. 

From choosing recyclable/recycled materials, to creating efficient packaging designs, there’s a lot you can do to get ahead of the curve. 

Our recommendation? There’s no reason to wait for legislation to force your hand. We suggest getting in touch with packaging specialists in advance for advice on how best to position your product packaging in order to be prepared for the future. 


What about plastic packaging?

While plastic’s not going anywhere anytime soon, it’s important to start preparing for a world that’s free from single-use plastics

We’ve already seen a tax on plastic bags, which effectively reduced plastic bag sales in major supermarkets by 95% since 2015. We may well see something similar in other retail efforts. 

Many businesses are substituting plastic packaging with cardboard alternatives (where possible). This is a great start, but we’re unlikely to see a full transition away from plastic packaging for a fair while.

Having said this, many business decisions are made when consumer consciousness shifts, and many consumers are shopping around for businesses that provide green solutions, so making the change now isn’t a bad idea!


Will we see a shift in packaging solutions?

Now, all of this is technically hypothetical, and may not happen exactly as we’ve suggested, but it is highly likely that the way that we pack and distribute goods will change in the near future, and we should be prepared for every possibility.

Even if things don’t drastically change, upgrading the efficiency of your packaging saves money, cuts down on waste and reduces your carbon footprint. It’s a no-brainer!


Future-proof your packaging products with ESS Packaging

We understand that keeping up with rules and regulations can be a pain. Our team at ESS Packaging work closely with our clients to ensure that they’re kept up to date at all times. 

Our end-to-end packaging solution is designed to ensure that your packaging needs are met at all times. Rely on our years of experience to advise you on packaging best practises for both rapid turnaround jobs and long-term work.

Get in touch with our friendly team today to find out more. Whether you’ve got a question you want to ask, or are just after a little more information, we’re here to talk.

Alternatively, give us a call on 01889 272 784, or email us at and we’ll answer any questions you might have.