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Key Facts and Trends in the U.S. Paper Products Industry

Posted by IndustrySelect on Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Key Facts and Trends in the U.S. Paper Products Industry


As paper mills close, you might think the paper product industry is on a downward trend. However, the situation is more complex. As digitization replaces the use of some paper products, others experience substantial growth. You will uncover new opportunities and fresh prospects by exploring the evolving directions in this crucial manufacturing sector. Get to know this industry in-depth, including key trends and statistics based on data collected by MNI. 

Key Facts in the U.S. Paper Products Industry 

One positive indicator of the industry's health is a rise in employment. According to data collected by MNI, compiler of the industrial data that powers IndustrySelect, over the last year, the number of jobs rose from 404,522 to 409,382, a change of 1.20%. Average sales were $398 billion. 

The percentage of diversity ownership in this industry is the same as in all manufacturing: 2% women-owned and 1% minority-owned. These companies import 15% of their materials, compared to 11% for manufacturing. Their domestic distribution is 66%, close to the 70% for total manufacturing. International distribution is slightly better than manufacturing (31% versus 29% for manufacturing). Public ownership is considerably higher than for all manufacturing, at 20% compared to 5%.

Most paper and allied products companies are in the Midwest or the South, at 32% each. The Northeast houses 21%, and the West 16%.

You can find paper and paper products categorized into six subindustries. Each has its own unique needs and challenges.

Get selling to the paper products industry today with MNI's Paper and Allied Products Industrial Database, featuring 5,100+ companies and 14,300+ executives. 

Paper Products Subindustries

Subindustries run the gamut from paper-forming to crafting finished paper items. You can choose the sales targets that best coincide with your company's offerings.

Pulp Mills

Pulp mills convert wood chips into smaller fibers. They do this through the use of chemicals and other processes. These mills can emit various pollutants and need advanced technology to meet the push toward more government regulation. Proposed amendments to these standards could make this requirement even more crucial. Sellers of amelioration products may find these mills promising prospecting fields.

Paper Mills

A paper mill uses the products from a pulp mill to manufacture paper. These mills utilize equipment that includes a digester and a Fourdrinier machine. The chemical processes involved in papermaking can produce sulfur, causing paper mills to emit unpleasant odors. The smell is not considered harmful but can create PR problems in the surrounding communities. If your company offers services to address this challenge, look at paper mills as prospective customers.

Paperboard Mills

Paperboard mills manufacture paperboard. This may include coated paperboard. They may also use converted paperboard products. Some mills also manufacture pulp. Examples of their many products include:

● Boxboard.
● Cardboard.
● Clay-coated board.
● Leatherboard.
● Milk carton board.
● Shoe board.
● Special food board
● Stencil board.
● Tagboard.
● Wet machine board.

The needs of these companies will depend on the customer base they serve.

Paperboard Containers and Boxes

The paperboard, also known as boxboard, used for packaging comes in several grades, all thicker than standard paper. It makes up boxes for everything from your morning cereal to cosmetics and medicines. Heavier boxes, such as shipping cartons, use containerboard. This is also known as corrugated board or simply "corrugated." Containerboard earns kudos from U.S. environmental activists as the most recycled packaging product. You might approach these companies with an environmentally favorable pitch.

Miscellaneous Converted Paper Products

This subindustry produces coated paper, laminated packaging, and bags. It also makes:

● Die-cut paper and board.
● Envelopes.
● Sanitary paper products.
● Stationary products.

These companies may be customers for coatings and adhesives.

Fur Goods

The fur goods industry produces waste products, including ears, throats, and scrap pieces separated from the pelt. These can be used in products such as mats. Dealing with companies that use them might make you less popular with animal rights activists. However, the manufacturers could require PR or waste disposal services.

As examined by industry trends, growth or decline varies considerably among the subindustries.

Trends and Outlooks

After a century of operation, Dunn Paper closed its mill in Michigan. Sonoco's Hutchinson Paper Mill is suffering a similar fate. Pativ Evergreen closed a plant in Canton, North Carolina, putting 1,000 employees out of work. Closures like these make the future of papermaking look bleak. Fortunately, that's only part of the story.

The closures are due less to a decrease in the use of paper products than to a change in the types of products used. While paper for communication purposes is in decline, paperboard use is growing. Usage shifts have multiple roots.

As environmental scrutiny of plastics grows, paper producers jump in with substitutes such as paper straws and bottle-type containers. As you undoubtedly saw during the pandemic, consumers value paper for sanitary purposes. That demand continues to grow.

The double-edged sword of digitization has the most profound effect on the paper industry. While emails and texts have replaced many paper-based transactions, online ordering has exploded. Shipping online orders requires packaging, spurring growth in boxes, labels, and paper padding.

Centenarian paper mills closed, but a new generation may be springing up. Green Bay Packaging in Wisconsin built a $500 million facility, the first new paper mill in 30 years. As you might expect, it focuses on packaging products.

Sappi, a significant paper producer, is retooling a paper machine to produce a product used to make sustainable coffee cups and cosmetics packaging. Over a dozen mills switched from turning out paper for writing or printing to paper packaging products in the last five years.

Paper product companies are accommodating a changing marketplace. They will need suppliers who can support their efforts.

Finding U.S. Paper Products Companies

As segments of the paper products industry decline, others soar. IndustrySelect can help you direct your sales efforts toward that growth. IndustrySelect can provide profiles with contacts' names, positions, and emails empowered to close a deal. It will also identify competitors of your target companies, expanding your prospecting field. Set up your free demo account today and make the paper industry contacts that count.


Want to keep up with the latest sales and marketing trends and exclusive industrial statistics from MNI? The free weekly IndustrySelect Insider email is the industry's top source for sales, marketing and industrial news you can't find anywhere else. Subscribe here.

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