FBB vs SBS: What Will Demand Look Like in the Next 5 Years?

This content is being republished with the consent of Fisher International and ResourceWise. Read more about FBB and SBS at ResourceWise. Dec 5’22

Carton board has seen a significant increase in market share in recent years, moving it into second place after containerboard in terms of production.

There are different types of carton boards that are popular in the market. Some of the most used ones include the following:

SBS – Solid Bleached Sulphate
FBB – Folding Box Board
CUK – Coated Unbleached Kraft
CRB – Coated Recycled Paperboard
URB – Uncoated Recycled Paperboard
SUL – Solid Unbleached Kraft

Why is the carton board industry growing?

The growth of carton board over the course of a year is impacted by many interlinked aspects. The proliferation and approval of frozen meals has had a considerable effect.

In the three years before the pandemic, frozen food sales had already surpassed all other food and drink sales, making it a major factor during the pandemic. In the second quarter of last year, sales of frozen food increased once more while also rising in price, outpacing those of fresh food by a whopping 230%.

As a result of this shift, companies now have a large market for manufacturing paperboards used to package frozen food. SBS and SUK, made with virgin fibers, are the best grades of paperboard for this purpose because they are more rigid and resistant to moisture.

But since more consumers are buying items with packaging made from recycled materials, CRB is being more widely accepted. Because of this, production capacity for SBS-coated SUK, and CRB has been increased to meet the growing demand for frozen meals.

As consumer awareness of the damage caused by plastic pollution increases, the need for carton board also grows. Governments are beginning to introduce policies to reduce the amount of plastic being used, which means that the demand for carton board is expected to skyrocket in the near future as it is used to replace plastic for food containers and cups.

How do fbb and sbs differ?

The primary distinction between FBB and SBS is that FBB normally consists of many layers and contains a mixture of chemical and mechanical (MP) or thermomechanical (TMP) pulp. On the other hand, SBS is always made entirely of chemical pulp and can be single or have more layers.

Folding box board

FBB is composed of multiple layers, including a middle layer of mechanical pulp surrounded by outer layers of chemical pulp, and an optional coating. As a paperboard made from virgin fiber, its consistent purity ensures product safety.

The combination of the inner mechanical pulp and outer chemical pulp layers produces a lightweight, voluminous board with superior folding and printing properties. Applications of FBB range from packaging chilled and frozen goods, to packing liquids, takeout boxes, beauty and health products, electronics, and sweets.

The primary regions where FBB is most popularly used are Asia, South America, and Europe, and it is also the leading packaging material used by businesses in India.

Solid bleached sulphate

SBS is a type of carton made with a top layer of bleached chemical pulp that yields excellent printing qualities and moderate strength. These cartons are frequently used to hold pharmaceuticals, food, cosmetics, tobacco, and frozen food.

More than half of the SBS produced globally for retail packaging comes from North America, which has the highest production rate.

©[2022] Fisher International (ResourceWise). All rights reserved.

The demand flow and future of fbb and sbs

China currently controls the majority of the coated carton board industry. It has a substantial share of the market, and it is likely that the Chinese will keep this dominance in the foreseeable future. FBB is the cartonboard grade with the fastest global growth, with a 24% YoY increase in 2023 as a starting point. Despite being the third most popular carton board grade this year, the surge in demand for frozen foods and the ban on plastic has caused a major increase in FBB production.

Consequently, $1.5 billion has been invested in North American carton board manufacturing, with a portion of it designated for the production of FBB.

©[2022] Fisher International (ResourceWise). All rights reserved.

Over the past ten years, the capacity for bleached paperboard in North America has steadily decreased. The US is one of the few markets that focus on manufacturing SBS. In December 2021, Verso Corporation, a maker of North American coated papers, was acquired by the Swedish pulp and paper company known as Billerud.

Billerud is now getting ready to convert the Escanaba mill into a small-scale FBB mill, with the first machine expected to be converted by 2025 and another by 2029. This is due to the declining demand for SBS and many of the assets used to make the grade are older and have higher costs.

Follow us at Coniferous as we take you through the twists and turns of the industry and help you to stay relevant and play your part in the green change.

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