7 Types of Folding Cartons

A collection of colorful folding carton types.

Folding cartons are one of the most popular types of product packaging in use today, and are used to ship just about anything. Chances are you’ve encountered a number of them this week. There are quite a few folding carton styles to choose from, so those looking for the right type of folding carton for their products may find the variety of options overwhelming. In this post, we’ll discuss why folding cartons are so popular and explain each carton type, giving examples of the type of products that work well with each.

What Are Folding Cartons?

Folding cartons are used to package foods, cosmetics, electronics, and more. Folding cartons are boxes or box sleeves made of either single-ply paperboard or corrugated cardboard, and are produced using a special machine that cuts, glues, creases, and scores the box material to produce the desired size and shape. Folding cartons are produced and shipped flat. They’re then unfolded and assembled at the manufacturing facility. 

Why Are Folding Cartons so Popular?

Foldable cartons offer several advantages over other types of packaging. First of all, they’re highly customizable. Folding cartons come in almost every shape and size imaginable. If a standard folding carton type doesn’t fit your needs, a custom die can be created to produce a box unique to your product. They also come in a variety of finishes and can be printed with custom lettering and graphics. 

Second, they’re cost-effective to produce. They’re made from paperboard, a relatively inexpensive material. Folding cartons also ship flat, making them cost-effective to ship and handle. 

Lastly, they’re more environmentally friendly than their plastic or metal counterparts. Since they’re made from wood pulp, they come from a renewable source. When they’ve reached the end of their lifecycle as product packaging, folding cartons can be recycled. If they happen to find their way into a landfill, they won’t sit there for up to a thousand years before they degrade. 

Types of Folding Cartons and Ideal Products for Each

There are many different types of folding cartons on the market today. Here are seven of the most popular ones, along with products that fit well with each. 

1. Auto-lock bottom box

Kraft autolock bottom box on a purple background.

Auto-lock bottom boxes have a specially designed bottom that automatically locks in place during assembly. The top is a simple tuck top flap. Auto-lock bottom boxes are also frequently referred to as auto-bottom or crash bottom boxes. This type of folding carton is designed for heavier objects. In fact, they’re the strongest of all box types. So if you have something really heavy, this option should be at the top of your list. Auto-lock bottom boxes are a perfect fit for packaging candles, bottles of wine and craft beers, or large cosmetics containers.

2. 1-2-3 bottom box

Kraft snap bottom box on a blue background.

Make no mistake, this numerically-oriented box doesn’t hail from a Sesame Street counting exercise. Instead, this type of folding carton takes its name from the three steps needed to assemble the box. Although it takes several steps to assemble, it isn’t much more time-intensive to put together than a simpler folding container. The 1-2-3 box is also commonly referred to as a snap bottom or lock bottom box. Since the bottom flaps push into each other to lock, this type of product packaging is also well-suited for heavier objects. High-end beers, wine, or spirits look great in this type of packaging. Large candles or heavier electronics also work well in a 1-2-3 box.

3. Straight tuck box

Three Kraft straight tuck boxes on a green background.

The straight tuck box is the multitool of folding cartons. It takes its name from the fact that both the top and bottom closure panels are on the same side of the box, folding front to back in the same direction. Most straight tuck boxes have end slits to keep the end tucks locked in place. Straight tuck boxes are an ideal choice for light- to medium-weight items. They store flat and don’t require any additional assembly to use. Straight tuck boxes would be an ideal choice for packaging cosmetics, CBD bottles, or essential oils.

4. Reverse tuck box

The reverse tuck box is practically identical to the straight tuck box, with the exception of the end closures. Rather than having the top and bottom closures on the same side of the box, the reverse tuck box has them on opposing sides, causing them to fold in opposite directions. Other than that, the only difference between this folding carton and its close cousin is the price. Because both end closures on a straight tuck box are on the same side, those take less paper to make, meaning they’re a little cheaper. Both straight tuck and reverse tuck boxes are a good choice for light- and medium-weight products.

5. Sleeve packaging

Printed blue sleeve box.

This type of folding carton is basically a box without a bottom or a top. Sleeve packaging is designed to slip over another, usually undecorated, box to provide some additional space for product information or brand messaging. As a bonus, it provides some additional rigidity and padding. One of the main selling points for this type of folding carton is the price. Without a top or bottom flap closure, sleeve packaging is the least expensive option in the list and can easily be slipped over any plain box for instant customization. It works well with a wide variety of products. 

6. Two-piece boxes

Printed purple two piece box set.

As the name implies, this type of folding carton has separate top and bottom halves. The tray and the lid fit together to create double walls, making this type of folding carton an ideal choice for packaging higher-end luxury products like jewelry, clothing, or confections. If your product has multiple pieces, custom inserts can be installed to keep them separated during transport and display. 

7. Custom boxes

Kraft box with a custom leaf pattern printed inside.

Your imagination is the only limit when it comes to folding cartons. Custom inserts keep products more secure and enhance the unboxing experience for the consumer. They’re especially useful for protecting breakable items or when packaging products with multiple pieces. Custom cutouts are areas of the box that are cut away to highlight the contents. They can be made to any shape or size and add another layer of interest to your product packaging. Well-placed cutouts can be used to draw interest and highlight parts of your product you want consumers to see. Customizing your boxes with inserts and cutouts can add a tailored look that’s perfect for packaging premium, high-end products like fragrances and cosmetics.

Folding Cartons Provide Endless Possibilities

Folding cartons are the workhorse of the modern-day product packaging industry. They’re cheap to produce, easy to work with, and are environmentally sustainable. Near limitless options for customization ensure your product packaging reflects your brand’s personality perfectly. 

If you have any questions about label or folding carton selection or printing, don’t hesitate to contact the Experience Team by phone or Live Chat! Our team is ready to serve your business with care and excellence.

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