Recently, in a discussion with one of our clients, we were talking about predictable consumption. The big two paper and paperboard grades--tissue and containerboard--were the front and center subjects. I was pointing out that since World War II, tissue consumption has been very predictable in 1st world countries at about 35 pounds per capita per year.
Our client asked, "What about containerboard?"
Containerboard is a different story. There is the BA (Before Amazon) period when containerboard was a backwater of the pulp and paper industry. Then there was Phase 1 of the current era when intercountry commerce and first-generation personal package delivery occurred. This was followed by Phase 2, which I think started around 2010, when Wal-Mart was reaching full market saturation and Amazon was gaining traction. Now we are in Phase 3, the commencement of which started in the spring of 2020, when companies like Amazon and others found personnel willing to deliver packaged goods during a pandemic to those unwilling to venture out. The medium that made such human delineation and activity possible was the containerboard package.
I do think the day is coming when the demand for containerboard and other packaging will be as predictable as the tissue sector. I'll hasten to say, however, we have years of turmoil left before we reach this point, which right now I would place at roughly 2030.
Jim Thompson is CEO of Paperitalo Publications.