Posted on October 4, 2019 by Dennis Salazar

Paperboard cartons for a versatile, colorful packaging solution

We are so well known for the terrific, custom-printed corrugated shipping containers we design and make, that sometimes we feel we should remind everyone that we are one of the few companies also able to produce paperboard designs, offering a versatile, colorful packaging solution.

Most packaging companies can produce corrugated or paperboard packaging, but we do both because we feel they are so overlapping in today’s packaging world. Especially on e-commerce/DTC packaging applications where customers demand well beyond functional and the goal is now an exceptional unboxing experience.

Many phone calls begin with us asking, “Are you looking for a corrugated shipper box or a paperboard folding carton?” The silence on the other end tells us that the caller (usually a first-time packaging buyer) probably does not know the difference. For more information, please see the first related post below. We will also list some other important differences in this post.

Paperboard or corrugated, which is better? 

Paperboard cartons, also known as folding cartons, have always been a favorite packaging product for retail applications. They range from simple tuck fold cartons for retail shelf display to more complex POP (point of purchase) counter displays with billboard panels and/or extended header panels for hanging on a rack. (see photo) Paperboard is a solid sheet of board, and we usually give examples such as the material used on a cereal box or a FedEx flat mailer envelope.

Corrugated board is multilayered, is not a solid substrate, and has a layer of fluted material between two heavy sheets of paper.

The “which is better” question can only be answered one way – it depends on the product being shipped and the application. Paperboard is USUALLY not recommended for a container being shipped without a secondary, outside, usually corrugated, container. Corrugated is USUALLY not used for retail display though we have made several for heavy products and bottles. There are no longer any hard and fast rules, and as materials change and improve, the application line between the two distinct materials grows fuzzier every day.

Paperboard inner packaginPaperboard inner packaging combined with corrugated outer packagingg combined with corrugated outer packaging

Web-based sellers are now offering their products in retail stores, and brick and mortar retailers are now offering their products on the internet. Everyone is trying to grow their market share by expanding how and where they sell their products.

This is where paperboard and corrugated packaging can work together. For example, let’s say a CBD seller (in tincture bottles) primarily offers their product through retail outlets, packaged in a paperboard folding carton, as shown in the photos below.

However, they have also set up a web store where the same products can be purchased online. They could create totally different packaging for the two distinct applications, possibly eliminate the paperboard carton on an e-commerce order, losing some of their packaging’s brand recognition.

Or they can create a corrugated shipping box with a rectangular cavity, able to accommodate the tincture bottles prepackaged in cartons. This will usually save time, money, and reduce the number of packaging SKU’s that must be kept in stock.

Great looking paperboard cartons with prompt delivery

paperboard designsCartons are offset printed, which can create beautiful multi-color designs that flexographic printing direct on corrugated cannot possibly match. We can also do other things flexo cannot produce, such as embossing, debossing, foil stamping, and different gloss varnishes for special effects on the cartons.

We can also deliver these quickly because of the board types and thicknesses our manufacturing plant keeps on hand. Those types and grades include:

SBS – .014 .018 .024 (solid bleached sulfate)

WCCNB – .018 .024 (white clay coated news back)

TBC – .018 .024 (tan banding chip)

These are far from the only types and grades we have available. Dozens of different combinations can also be used, and we can help you determine the best possible board solution for your specific application.

Whether you need a paperboard carton, a corrugated shipper, or both, Salazar Packaging can help you get the job done quickly with maximum visual impact at minimal cost.

Contact us at or call us at 630-551-1700 for a no-cost, no-obligation review of your needs with one of our experienced branded packaging advisors. This may be your first paperboard carton or corrugated shipper project, but it is not ours. Let our experience go to work for you.

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