A Comprehensive Exploration of Paper Grades for Packaging: Choosing the Right Material for Your Products


Packaging is a critical component in various industries, including food, beverage, pharmaceuticals, and retail. It serves the essential function of protecting products, with the durability of packaging materials being vital to ensure that packages fulfill this role effectively. One crucial factor that impacts packaging quality and durability is the paper grading used.

Different types of paper grading have varying characteristics that affect packaging strength, durability, and cost. It is essential for businesses to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each option in the paper industry to choose the right type of packaging for their products. This article will explore four popular paper grades for packaging: kraft paper, corrugated board, solid bleached sulfate (SBS) paperboard, and coated paper. We will also discuss the advantages of each paper grade and compare their strength, durability, and cost to help businesses make informed decisions when selecting packaging materials.

Environmental Impact of Packaging Materials

Selecting sustainable packaging materials, such as paper, can significantly reduce carbon emissions, waste, and energy consumption compared to plastic or other non-renewable materials. Many companies are increasingly adopting plant-based packaging solutions as part of their sustainability initiatives. Therefore, when choosing packaging materials, it is essential to consider their environmental footprint.

What is Paperboard?

Paperboard is a versatile and durable type of paper-based packaging material made by compressing layers of paper pulp fibers. It can be customized to suit various packaging needs, such as food, cosmetics, and retail packaging. Paperboard is eco-friendly and recyclable, making it an ideal choice for sustainable packaging solutions.

Paperboard vs Cardboard

Paperboard and cardboard are two common packaging materials used across various industries. While they may seem similar, they have distinct characteristics that make them suitable for different applications. Let’s explore the differences between paperboard and cardboard in more detail:


  • Paperboard: Paperboard is a thick, lightweight, and durable material made from compressed layers of paper pulp fibers. It is typically made from recycled materials and can be customized for different packaging needs.
  • Cardboard: Cardboard is a thicker and stiffer material made from multiple layers of paper and sometimes includes additional materials like plastics. The multiple layers commonly feature two liner boards and one corrugated board, providing added strength and rigidity.

Strength and Durability:

  • Paperboard: Paperboard is less sturdy compared to cardboard and is suitable for packaging lighter items. It is commonly used for products like cereal boxes, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.
  • Cardboard: Cardboard is stronger and more durable than paperboard, making it suitable for packaging heavier items or products that require greater protection during transportation and storage. It is commonly used for packaging appliances, electronics, and furniture.

Printing and Customization:

  • Paperboard: Paperboard offers a smooth surface that is ideal for high-quality printing. It can be easily customized with graphics, logos, and product information. Paperboard packaging is often used for retail products that require attractive packaging.
  • Cardboard: While cardboard can also be printed on, its rougher surface may not be as suitable for high-quality printing as paperboard. However, cardboard can still be customized with branding and product information.

Environmental Impact:

  • Paperboard: Paperboard is eco-friendly and recyclable, making it a sustainable packaging option. It is made from recycled materials and can be easily recycled after use, reducing its environmental impact.
  • Cardboard: Cardboard is also recyclable, but the recycling process may be more complex due to its multiple layers and additional materials. However, many recycling facilities can handle cardboard, making it a relatively environmentally friendly packaging option.


  • Paperboard: Paperboard is generally less expensive than cardboard, making it a cost-effective packaging option for businesses.
  • Cardboard: Cardboard is more expensive than paperboard due to its additional layers and materials. However, its durability and strength may justify the higher cost for packaging heavier or more valuable items.

Popular Paperboard Grades:

Clay Coated News Backboard (CCNB)

Made from a blend of recycled newsprint, CCNB is commonly used for low-cost folding carton packaging. It is eco-friendly but may not be suitable for products requiring high moisture resistance.

Solid Bleached Sulfate (SBS)

A high-quality paperboard grade, SBS is widely used for retail product packaging due to its superior strength and printing capabilities. However, it is not eco-friendly and is more expensive.

Folding Box Board (FBB)

FBB is strong and durable, making it ideal for products requiring protection during transportation and storage. It is more expensive than other grades but offers excellent printing capabilities.

Natural Kraft (SUS) and Coated Unbleached Kraft (CUK)

These eco-friendly grades offer a natural look and feel, with SUS providing a smooth surface for printing and CUK offering tear resistance and water/grease resistance.

Popular Finishes for Paper Packaging

Matte Finish

Provides a sophisticated and premium look, ideal for luxury packaging.

Gloss Finish

Offers a sleek and modern appearance, commonly used in advertising and retail packaging.

Embossed Finish

Adds depth and texture to packaging, making it more eye-catching.

Foil Stamping

Creates a luxurious and elegant look, often used in premium packaging.

Spot UV Coating

Highlights specific areas of the packaging, adding contrast and visual interest.

Additional Considerations

To further understand the ideal paper grade for your packaging, it is crucial to understand the material’s durability, strength, and thickness. Measuring the thickness of the paperboard is done by determining the PT/GSM of the material. Essentially, the higher the GSM/PT Unit, the thicker the material and the more weight it can carry.


Choosing the right paper grade for packaging is crucial for ensuring product safety and presentation. By understanding the characteristics and benefits of each grade, businesses can make informed decisions that align with their sustainability goals and packaging requirements. Sustainable packaging solutions like paperboard offer not only protection for products but also contribute to a greener environment.


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