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In the years to come, when people think about 2020 and paper, they will likely remember toilet paper shortages – in reality, however, many paper industry segments have had a wild ride this year in terms of demand.
The paper industry as a whole was expected to see stable demand for the first half of 2020, followed by a period of accelerated growth toward 2021. When toilet paper, paper towels, and other household paper products disappeared from shelves as consumers stockpiled stay-at-home essentials, paper packaging demand also skyrocketed as reliance on eCommerce and it’s supply chain increased.
Even within these general paper segments, disruption varied categorically (paper packaging, tissue, pulp, recovered paper, graphic paper, nonwovens). Take tissue, for example. While tissue products sold within consumer grocery segments experienced healthy growth as a result of end-user demand – a severe lack in demand in other tissue segments, such as hospitality, caused significant deficits.
Another category heavily affected by a decrease in “Away-from-Home” demand was graphic paper. With work-from-home shutting down offices and e-learning closing schools and universities, printers went cold from nonuse. The need for paper products in the workplace or educational setting lessened, and social distancing measures furthered decreased the need for graphic paper as it was used for print advertising.
Though the paper demand disruption of this year remains apparent, leading forecasts predict 2021 will lean toward demand recovery and stabilization, rather than additional turbulence. Sourcing, supply chain, and logistics, while stressed over the last several months, have adjusted to the current paper demand environment. Where mills have been operating at capacity, many have adjusted to the increased demand across the board, thus eliminating much of the production shortfalls experienced earlier this year.