What is Carton Packaging? Folding Carton Packaging Explained.

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Carton packaging is an incredibly popular choice for product packaging.

Everything from cereal to cosmetics comes in carton packaging, in part, due to the level of customization for a wide range of box sizes and specifications that is nearly unmatched.

But what exactly is carton packaging? How did this type of packaging get so popular worldwide? What is it used for now?

Let’s take a closer look at carton packaging and how it all works to deliver impressive structure, branding and stability to your retail packaging. 

What is Carton Packaging?

Cartons are versatile packaging boxes made from folding a single sheet of paperboard (also known as cardboard) that is die-cut according to a box template. Folding cartons are primarily used for lighter product packaging compared to corrugated packaging, as paperboard cartons can only hold a few pounds.

Carton packaging is also commonly referred to as carton boxes, folding cartons, paperboard cartons and paperboard boxes.

The History of Folding Cartons: Who Invented Carton Packaging?

history foldable carton packaging boxes

Foldable carton packaging was invented by Charles Henry Foyle in the late 1800s, an Englishman who created the product we know as the carton today. It was essentially a piece of paper that was cut in such a way that it could be folded into a custom box. Although incredibly innovative for its time, carton packaging still lacked a lot of the features we know and love today.

For example, although it could be folded into a box shape, the ends still needed to be held together tightly, so it was common to use tacks and strings to hold the carton boxes together. This was expensive, not to mention labor-intensive. What’s more, such boxes were difficult to produce, so carton packaging like this was usually only used for valuable luxury items like jewelry. 

Fortunately, carton packaging came into the limelight in 1879, when Robert Gair realized that his printing press could cut through the carton material and allow for mass production of carton packaging. Food and snack companies realized that the foldable boxes greatly extended the shelf life of their products, and were among the first to regularly use such materials. 

The first snack food company to adopt the use of carton packaging was the National Biscuit Company, better known today as Nabisco. 

How Is Carton Packaging Used Today? 

paperboard boxes carton packaging

Today, carton packaging has found a reliable home among store shelves around the world. When deciding on your product’s box design and presentation, there are many reasons to consider using carton boxes, including: 

Eco-Friendly Packaging

In this day and age, consumers do their best to be responsible stewards of the planet. That means buying and using packaging made from recyclable materials like Kraft paper.

Cartons are made with more than 75% paper that comes from sustainable sources and is harvested using responsible practices. This means choosing carton packaging boxes for your product packaging needs is an eco-friendly choice that reflects well on your brand and your company. 

High Shelf Appeal

Beautiful packaging has what we call “high shelf appeal”.  Properly designed, structured carton boxes help solidify your brand in the consumer’s mind as one of quality and consistency. What’s more, they provide ample space to showcase your brand message.

Tell your story through your product packaging design, highlight the benefits of your product, present a promotion or even showcase your social responsibility endeavors by using eco-friendly packaging. The choices are endless! 

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Common Types of Carton Packaging Boxes

common types carton packaging boxes

There are several distinctive types of carton packaging, each with its own benefits depending on your needs. Companies turn to high quality paperboard carton packaging to protect, store and showcase their food, beverage, cosmetics, supplements and so much more. Here are just a few of the many different types of carton packaging that are commonly used in retail packaging

Strength Packaging

Strength packaging offers solid, reliable structural design to help protect your product from being compressed. But don’t let its rigidity fool you, high strength packaging is still fully customizable and printable so you can feel free to unleash your creativity with this durable packaging. 

Foldable Cartons

The original and still one of the most popular types of carton packaging. Flexible enough to be folded by hand if you only have a few small batches, or process through high speed automation for larger numbers, foldable cartons can be completely customized and designed for all your promotional needs.


If you’re selling several of an item together, multipacks are an excellent way to keep each item secure and stable while protecting the entire lot in one complete package. Often used for things like canned goods, cereal, yogurt and other types of food. 

Hybrid Packaging

Hybrid packaging blends different features of different types of carton packaging to create a “best of both worlds” combination. 

Looking for more types of carton packaging? Read our ultimate guide to carton boxes for a deeper look into folding cartons.

Other Benefits Carton Packaging Offers

carton packaging benefits

It’s worth noting that like any type of packaging, carton packaging offers an opportunity to increase the perceived value of the product inside.

Although we’re no longer tying up or tacking down our cartons, and they’re no longer reserved for jewelry or other expensive items, carton packages have nevertheless surged in popularity and continue to be popular today with some adjustments, such as being made with eco-friendly materials. 

What’s more, foldable carton packaging can be shaped into any type of design. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a box. This makes it a great way to add a unique flair or creativity to your product to set it apart from all of the other boxes out there. Taking advantage of the large printable area on carton boxes is a smart idea that is commonly used in cosmetic packaging design, and is a great way to showcase the benefits of your product.

Build Your Brand with Carton Packaging 

At Refine Packaging, we understand that not everyone is a packaging expert.

Packaging is our passion and we strive to create printed designs that are the perfect match for your product. Our staff of graphic artists spans a variety of styles, so even if you don’t have a design in mind, we can create something that perfectly encompasses and reflects your brand, your story and your message, as well as the things that set you apart from your competition.

We create memorable, beautiful and stylish packaging for a wide range of industries, products and businesses large and small. If you’re thinking of choosing paperboard boxes or you’re not sure what type of custom packaging is right for your specific needs, talk to us!

We have decades of combined experience and bring our detailed industry knowledge to work for you in a way that’s easy to understand and will get your product in the hands of consumers faster. 

We also offer a variety of styles and printing processes that can make your packaging look extraordinary. From UV coating to foil stamping or different types of glosses, there are a variety of factors you’ll want to consider when choosing the right type of packaging material and design for your specific needs. But that doesn’t mean you have to do it all alone! 

Now that you’ve read about carton packaging boxes in more detail, why not contact the printing and packaging experts at Refine Packaging for a free, no obligation estimate on your printing and packaging needs? 

Let’s work together to create a style that’s uniquely your own, with packaging that exceeds your expectations. 

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