Paperboard cartons are drink containers made of paperboard, which is a thick paper-based material, and often with an aluminum foil interior. A seal called polyethylene is used to keep the container dry and print labels on. The history of the paperboard carton could be traced back to the late 19th century, when many people in the U.S. owned cattle. Cows were hand-milked at dairy farms and the milk put into glass bottles to be distributed. At the time, there was no refrigeration other than ice boxes, and milk in glass would go bad fairly quickly. As a result, customers who had milk delivered were forced to finish it within the day. Then, in 1915, a toymaker in Ohio named John Van Wormer came up with the carton after accidentally breaking a glass milk container. It was made of paperboard and had the gable-top, where the milk carton spout is temporarily glued together for easy-opening. This gable-top is the triangular shaped top that most paperboard milk cartons use today. Van Wormer called his invention the Pure-Pak.
In the mid-1930s, engineering company Ex-Cell-O invented a machine that could allow for Pure-Pak’s mass production. Together, Van Wormer and Ex-Cell-O were able to produce 20,000,000 milk cartons a day. With the price increase of glass, the use of cartons caught on in the beverage industry, and more companies began producing cartons in all shapes and sizes. The Ex-Cell-O Packaging Systems Division that made Pure-Pak was eventually bought by Norwegian company Elopak, or European License of Pure-Pak. Over 13 billion Pure-Paks have been sold, to over 80 markets around the world. Much like the innovation of Pure-Pak, in 1943, Swedish man Ruben Rausing developed a tetrahedron-shaped carton that required little material to make. It had an additional layer of aluminum which would allow for maximum hygiene and could even stand without refrigeration. He called it the TetraPak (later called Tetra Classic), and the package continued to be renovated and altered until 1963. By 1984, the TetraPak migrated to the U.S., inspiring a boom in carton-based products. By 2008, TetraPak had produced more than 141 billion packages worldwide. Today, there are 8,850 machines in operation, with TetraPak packages available in over 170 countries. The success of Pure-Pak and TetraPak gives a sense of just how large the market is for paperboard cartons.
The benefits of paperboard carton trends were apparent. Because they were fully sealed, drinks in paperboard cartons had a longer shelf life up to a whole year. Made with biodegradable material such as wood fibre, cartons also allowed easy distribution and recycling. After being recycled, paperboard cartons could be made into toilet paper, stationery, and even furniture, leaving a low carbon footprint. In the last twenty five years, the average weight of cartons have reduced 20%. Not only that, all sorts of liquids can be contained in them, including soups, sauces, and wines. Juice cartons and juice boxes are among the most popular, as they make easy containers for children. Their light weight and shape make for easy carrying and storage, causing them to be the preference of many consumers. With cartons, the ratio between package and liquid is a win as well. Choosing a carton means a consumer may receive only 6% packaging, and 94% of the actual product. Boxed Water Is Better, a company in Michigan, packs water into paperboard cartons in order to reduce the carbon footprint of both their factory and consumers. Available in 15 states as well as overseas, the company’s distribution sales have more than doubled in 2013. Boxed Water Is Better is available at our Specialty Sodas website, as well as coconut waters in cartons.