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The inaugural packaging World Cup (2022 edition)

Matt Dobson: Last Updated 5th January 2023
Posted In: Design & Innovation | Guides and Advice xx 31179

Packaging world champions

Which type of packaging is the overall champion

Football. Cricket. Rugby. There are many popular sports where countries battle it out to be the best in the world. But the chances are you may not have heard of a somewhat different competition – the packaging world cup!

The contest sees eight popular packaging materials and types (effectively starting at the quarter-final stages) battle it out to win the crown of packaging world champions.

Please continue reading for a brief overview of the competing packaging, the head-to-head match-ups and ultimately, the overall packaging world cup winner. Hopefully, you find it entertaining and interesting (unlike your typical article on packaging!).

World cup of packaging
Who will win the highly coveted Packaging World Cup?

Quick Reference / Contents

Competitors at the packaging World Cup

Meet the packaging vying for the coveted trophy

Before launching into the competition, it is first necessary to briefly introduce the participants.

So, without further ado, here is the list of packaging vying for the coveted trophy:

  • Solid board boxes
  • Corrugated cardboard packaging
  • Triwall packaging
  • Wooden crates
  • Correx totes and boxes
  • Moulded plastic containers
  • Poly bags and mailers
  • Foam inserts

Solid board boxes

Solid board is often referred to as box board or carton board. It is similar to corrugated cardboard but does not feature a middle layer of “fluting” (the corrugated part of cardboard). Solid board is often used for retail packaging as it is lightweight and easy to print.

Corrugated cardboard packaging

Corrugated cardboard packaging is effectively outer layers of paper (liners) with a fluted or corrugated sheet in the centre. This construction makes cardboard surprisingly strong yet lightweight and easy to fabricate. It is incredibly versatile and used across many industries and applications.

Corrugated cardboard material
Corrugated cardboard packaging is one of the favourites to win the packaging world cup.

Triwall packaging

Triwall is effectively a triple-walled version of regular corrugated cardboard. However, its construction and strength make it more of a competitor for wooden crates. Businesses commonly use it in heavy-duty applications.

Wooden crates

Wooden crates are – as the name suggests – crates made from wood. Their use is widespread for exporting items and similar heavy-duty applications (much like Tri-Wall).

Correx totes and boxes

Many people refer to Correx as “plastic cardboard”. It is a fluted polypropylene material that packaging manufacturers can fabricate similarly to corrugated cardboard, which means it is suited to various applications. However, its strength and durability make it popular for returnable transit applications.

Correx material
Correx will be hoping for a strong showing at the world cup of packaging.

Moulded plastic containers

Moulded plastic containers typically utilise polypropylene material. They are available in standard sizes, with custom options not possible (due to the tooling cost). However, they are low-cost, exceptionally strong, and a viable alternative to Correx in many scenarios.

Poly bags and mailers

Made from polyethene – hence the “poly” in the name, these mailers are effectively weatherproof plastic bags used to send items through the post and courier networks. They are lightweight and low cost, but (currently) difficult to recycle.

Foam inserts

And finally, foam inserts can take several forms – most notably end caps to hold products in place within an outer container or box. However, high-density foams such as Plastazote are commonly used in protective cases to offer precise protection for high-value or fragile items.

Plastazote foam insert
Foam is one of the outsiders to win the packaging world cup.

The Draw

The road to the packaging final

In the spirit of fairness, the competing names were placed into a hat, with the names drawn in a glamourous ceremony (OK, not that glamourous) held at GWP’s Cricklade site in Wiltshire.

The outcome of the draw saw the following ties for the first round (the quarter-finals).

  • QF 1: Number 2: Corrugated cardboard packaging vs Number 7: Poly mailing bags
  • QF 2: Number 6: Moulded plastic containers vs Number 3: Triwall packaging
  • QF 3: Number 5: Correx totes and boxes vs Number 4: Wooden crates
  • QF 4: Number 8 Foam packaging vs Number 1: Solid board

On the with the action!

Quarter Final 1

Corrugated cardboard packaging vs Poly mailers

One of the early tournament favourites, corrugated cardboard packaging, comes up against another widely used type of packaging – poly bags (also known as poly mailers).

Surprisingly, poly mailers take an early lead, thanks to their resistance to water and moisture. Corrugated quickly hits back due to its size flexibility – businesses can choose boxes in almost any size and shape (including custom), whilst poly mailers are typically only available in standard sizes.

With the scores tied, poly mailers stun corrugated to take the lead, thanks to their lower weight (leading to a smaller carbon footprint in transit).

Corrugated keeps its nerve, however, striking back with a late flurry of points, including its vast array of print options and box styles, before rounding off the win emphatically due to its ease of recycling.

Final Score: Corrugated packaging 4 – 2 Poly mailers.

Quarter final one of the world cup of packaging

Quarter Final 2

Moulded plastics vs Triwall

The second game is a battle of the heavy hitters, with moulded plastics (used for euro containers and similar handling tote boxes) coming up against Triwall – a heavy-duty corrugated material.

After a grinding battle of attrition, Triwall takes a late lead due to the size flexibility it offers. With just minutes left of the clock, moulded plastics equalise thanks to their strength and durability.

Deep into extra time, moulded plastics edge in front due to their overall lower costs (based across their overall lifespan) before Triwall again pulls the scores level – the substitute “recyclability” levelling things up.

But moulded plastic is not to be denied – winning with virtually the final attack of the contest – thanks to their ability to withstand moisture.

Final Score: Moulded plastics 3 – 2 Triwall (after extra time)

Quarter final two of the world cup of packaging

Quarter Final 3

Correx totes and boxes vs Wooden crates

The expectations were that this would be a close contest – but Correx blows wooden crates away with a devasting early onslaught.

Correx scores well for being water resistant, easy to fabricate to an almost limitless range of sizes and designs, and can carry detailed print and branding. The range of different grades and strengths see it extend its lead further.

Wooden crates finally respond, as manufactured from a natural material, they are arguably more sustainable. But almost immediately after wood scores an own goal due to its limits regarding export and ISPM 15 regulations.

Overall, a rout, with Correx proceeding comfortably to the next round.

Final Score: Correx totes 5 – 1 Wooden crates

Quarter final three of the world cup of packaging

Quarter Final 4

Foam packaging vs Solid board

On paper, this is perhaps the biggest mismatch of the first round of fixtures.

In a tight game, solid board takes an early lead due to its attractive appearance. However, it cannot live with foam in terms of the protection it provides or the precise shapes that converters can create within the foam to house products or parts.

The fact that foam relies on outer packaging to function (in most scenarios) sees it score an own goal to level to tie.

Penalties loom, with solid board looking to progress thanks to its recyclability. Still, foam sneaks through thanks to offering calculated cushioning, performance, and versatility, making it suitable in both transit and presentational packaging.

Final Score: Foam packaging 2 – 2 Solidboard (foam wins 2-1 on penalties)

Quarter final four of the world cup of packaging

Semi Final 1

Corrugated packaging vs moulded plastic containers

So, to the first semi-final. And a blistering start by moulded plastic containers – relying on its strength and durability – sees it go one up.

But corrugated slowly begins to get into the game. Its sheer versatility in terms of uses (across transit, industrial, eCommerce and retail) sees it draw level. After a couple of near misses by moulded plastics (almost scoring with water resistance and lifetime costs), corrugated takes a deserved lead thanks to its size flexibility (and the impact this has on product protection and carbon emissions).

With moulded plastics chasing the game, corrugated packaging pulls out the recyclability card and runs out deserving winners, with something to spare.

Final Score: Corrugated packaging 3 – 1 Moulded plastic

Semi final one of the world cup of packaging

Semi Final 2

Correx boxes vs foam packaging

Having unexpectedly found itself in the semi-finals, foam takes an early lead. Its unrivalled performance in protecting items in transit sees it stun the corrugated plastic team.

Correx regroups and slowly works its way back into the match. It gets a deserved equaliser thanks to the printing and branding options it can provide (with foam having laser etching as its sole option off the bench).

The game becomes bogged down as both teams focus on sustainability (both being difficult to recycle, although offering considerable reusability).

But with extra time looming, foam gifts Correx the win due to it mainly being used alongside another form of packaging. An own goal settles it!

Final Score: Correx boxes 2 – 1 Foam packaging

Semi final two of the world cup of packaging

The Final

Corrugated packaging vs Correx

And so the showpiece event, the final that everyone has been waiting for! Who is to win the crown of packaging world champions?

A cagey start sees things remain level – both Correx and corrugated cardboard can be fabricated into a vast range of packaging styles and designs. And whilst Correx gains an edge on industrial and returnable applications, corrugated packaging nicks the lead thanks to its use across both transit and decorative (i.e. retail and eCommerce ) applications.

However, Correx manages to pull level thanks to its overall strength, durability and longevity, with which corrugated just cannot live.

So with the end of the tournament approaching, it all comes down to sustainability. But surprisingly, Correx argues that where a supply chain is in place, it can actually be more sustainable to reuse packaging over multiple trips. Corrugated is just about to concede when from out of nowhere, it scores for ease of recyclability.

A close-run thing, but corrugated holds out for the win! A new world champion is crowned!

Final Score Corrugated packaging 2 – 1 Correx boxes

Winner of the packaging world cup


Important points to note

Corrugated cardboard packaging is a worthy winner of the first World cup of packaging – it is versatile, recyclable and sustainable, strong, offers excellent branding opportunities and is used across various industries. However, there are some essential points to bear in mind.

Primarily, which type of packaging is best for your business should not be looked at without considering the specific application and intended use. Product type, fragility and value should also all be considered. Whilst cardboard has won here, there is a huge range of applications where one of the other packaging types listed would be more suitable.

You should also note that the types of packaging are not distinct. There is nothing to stop you, for example, from using a combination of corrugated packaging with foam inserts or moulded plastic containers with Correx divider sets.

Ultimately, the creation of this article was to provide some light relief in what can often be a somewhat technical (some would even say dull) subject matter.

What is important is that should you not be sure of the best packaging for your specific requirements, you get genuinely impartial advice. And, offering a vast range of packaging products and materials, GWP can provide this advice.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch to discuss your requirements (or debate the results of this packaging world cup) with one of GWP’s experts.

Further reading

About the Author

Matt Dobson

Marketing Manager | GWP Group

Matt has worked in the packaging industry for over 10 years, having joined GWP Group as Marketing Executive in 2012. [Read full bio]

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