Wooden packaging (final balance 2022)


Pallets, industrial packages, boxes and corks: the wooden packaging family is composed of these different types. The final 2022 data of the segment and the first analyses of the year just ended are presented below

A cura di Barbara Iascone
Istituto Italiano Imballaggio

Wooden packaging has guaranteed the protection of goods during transport and handling since ancient times: thanks to its resistance and excellent ability to absorb knocks and vibrations, it’s able to reduce any damage to transported products and relative losses to a minimum.

Today they are considered undisputed interpreters of the concept of sustainability: made with a recyclable and biodegradable material, their “ecological” nature is now universally recognized. We can even say that, today, nearly all wooden packages are produced either with recycled materials or with materials coming from responsibly managed forests, in this way significantly reducing waste and environmental impact. According to the Italian Packaging Institute’s Data Bank, 84% of reusable packaging in Italy is packaging for transport, of which 65% is made of wood.

Prices of raw materials. In 2023 the price trends for the raw materials used to produce wooden packaging monitored by the Milan Chamber of Commerce are, like all other prices, in sharp decline. The average prices for 2023 compared to those for the previous year show significant drops ranging from -13.3% for “joists, beams for packaging and reinforcement for industrial packaging”, to -40.6% for “panels: oriented strand board (OSB) base thickness 10 mm”.

Photograph of a sector

On the basis of the final data taken from the “Packaging in Figures” 2023 edition, in 2022 the wooden packaging industry accounted for 17.5% of total Italian packaging production expressed in tonnes, and 3.9% of overall turnover.

On the basis of the breakdown reported in “Packaging in Figures”, the economic statistical compendium that the Italian Packaging Institute draws up every year, the segment is divided into pallets, industrial packaging, boxes, and corks.

The first account for 77.9% of the segment, while industrial packaging 14.6%. These two categories, which together represent 92.5% of total wooden packaging production, are used exclusively in the fields of transport and logistics, making them particularly sensitive, more than other packaging types, to the trend of the manufacturing industry as a whole.

Table 1. Global balance of the wood packaging sector.
  2019 2020 2021 2022 Ip. 2023
Turnover Mln Euro 1,609 1,545 1,561 1,605 1,649
Employees - - - - 10,200
Number of companies - - - - 2,057
Production (t/000) 2,734 2,850 3,182 3,168 3,002
Export 170 178 173 184 156
Import 436 397 433 446 424
Apparent use 3,000 3,069 3,442 3,430 3,270
Source: Imballaggio in Cifre, Istituto Italiano imballaggio

Facts and data

(Source: Italian Packaging Institute’s analyses of ISTAT [Italian National Statistics Institute] data) In this analysis we start from the final data reported in the latest edition of “Packaging in Figures” referring to 2022, providing also a first evaluation of 2023. It’s necessary to point out that no official data is available yet for 2023, and the evaluations reported are based on initial ISTAT analyses referring to the first 10 months of the year, both with regards to production and to foreign trade.

Starting, therefore, from the final data, in 2022 the production of wooden packaging was substantially stable at +0.4%, with around 3,168 t/000. Turnover was up, by around +2.8%, as was foreign trade: +6.3% for exports, +2.9% for imports.

The first evaluations relating to 2023 show production falling by around -5%, with 3,000 t/000. This trend should be also confirmed by a number of economic indicators: the negative trend reported by manufacturing industry (-0.6%), the generalised fall in exports, and a decrease in goods handling which, inevitably, affects this type of packaging strongly linked to the world of transportation.

Table 2. Production of the wooden packaging supply chain. Data in t/000 with 2023 forecasts.
  Industrial packaging Cork stoppers Crates Pallets
2019 480 31.3 180 2,043
2020 472 57 176 2,145
2021 488 69 180 2,445
2022 463 73 165 2,467
2023 429 70 148 2,355
Source: Imballaggio in Cifre, Istituto Italiano imballaggio

Pallets. Pallets continue to be the most representative item of the segment (77.9%): in 2023 they should register a fall of 4.5%, inverting the generally positive trend characterizing recent years. In 2022 production closed at +2.1%.

On the basis of the Italian Packaging Institute’s Data Bank, 46.4% of the pallet sector relates to the food sector, subdivided into drinks for 22.2% and food for 24.2%. 24,4% is used for the non-food mass retail area (cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, domestic cleaning products etc.), and the remaining 29.2% is used for the non-food area in general, of which 2.8% in the chemical sector.

Industrial packaging. This category refers to crates, mostly tailor-made, large reels for electric cables, wine crates, large boxes, etc. In 2023 the production of wooden industrial packaging is expected to fall by around -7.5%, bringing the number of tonnes to below 430,000. There was also a negative trend in 2022 (- 5.1%).

Boxes. Used in the fruit and vegetable, fish and nursery sectors, wooden boxes have undergone a slow but constant decline for a number of years, replaced by containers made with other materials; corrugated cardboard is taking over in fruit and vegetables, while in the fish sector there is almost the exclusive use of plastic and polystyrene. After the fall in production reported in 2022 (-8%), a -10% is expected for 2023.

Corks. They are a niche area of the of wooden packaging “family” (2.2%), but nevertheless of great importance, given that Italy is one of the major producers of cork. In 2022 there was a growth of around 6.5% in terms of production, arriving at exceeding 70,000 tonnes. The trend for 2023 sees instead, a fall of 5%, due essentially to the downsizing of the main target sectors. Foreign trade was also characterised by negative trends in 2023, both regarding imports and exports.

Recycling numbers (Rilegno data)

On the basis of the latest report relating to the management of waste deriving from wooden packaging drawn up by Rilegno, the CONAI consortium, it emerges that in 2022 62.7% of wooden packaging issued on the market for consumption, that is to say, packaging which, once used in the national territory, becomes waste, was recovered. Foreign produced packaging also comes under this classification. Around 1,717 t/000 of wooden packaging were collected and recycled.

Find out more information about the companies mentioned in this article and published in the Buyers' Guide - PackBook by ItaliaImballaggio
Istituto Italiano Imballaggio

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