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Cardboard gift boxes: Makers improve designs, explore new destinations

Companies release certified designs and upgrade products to lift sales. Alternative markets also receive more attention.

Suppliers of gift packaging products in China are adopting a range of differentiation strategies to boost exports amid sluggish demand.

Dongguan Heng Feng Printing & Packaging Co. Ltd is applying for QC080000, ICTI and FCCA certification to attract more quality-conscious buyers. The maker is also using degradable PLA bags for gift box containers, in response to an order requirement from the US. The material raises prices 17 percent.

The supplier anticipated an increase in shipments of 15 percent. On the contrary, it generated only 8 percent growth in 2008 and 10 percent in 2009.

Cardboard gift box
  The model HF-GB-110702 gift box from Dongguan Heng Feng is printed with two Pantone colors and mounted with 128gsm C2S art paper on 1,000gsm grayboard.

Like many other enterprises, Guangdong province-based Dongguan Heng Feng is exploring emerging markets such as South America and Dubai. Australia's share of total exports grew to 20 percent from 15 percent in 2008.

Yama Ribbons & Bows Co. Ltd is expanding its business in nontraditional destinations as well. Orders from the three aforementioned areas increased 10 percent in the past 12 months.

Ningbo Xinguang Culture Packing Co. Ltd, on the other hand, shifted focus from the US and the EU to the Middle East and India. The US and the EU, however, are still the major markets for most of China's gift packaging output.

Suppliers are also performing product and manufacturing upgrades, including the release of environment-friendly models and automation in pattern application.

Ningbo Tianjiu Printing Co. Ltd has released paper-and-fabric bags. These are sturdier and priced 15 percent higher than versions made purely of the former material.

The supplier is also among those that are improving printing processes. It purchased Komori and Heidelberg units abroad to add to domestically made equipment.

Dongguan Heng Feng, meanwhile, has developed foldable gift boxes, which can save shipping space and transportation costs.

The company has an automatic sampling machine that can produce one piece a day. This is three times faster than manual labor and lessens outlay by 80 percent.

Many suppliers are now using self-operating equipment such as die-cutting and fold-line marking.

Apart from facing slowing overseas demand, ribbon exporters in China are up against countervailing and anti-dumping duties in the US.

The investigations, which started last year, cover decorative narrow woven ribbons with selvedge. Final determinations and issuance of orders are scheduled to take place in February and April 2010.

Yama is spending almost $300,000 to respond to claims. The maker accounted for at least 50 percent of the country's ribbon shipments in the first half of 2009.

Gift boxes
Gift bags
Gift packaging accessories
Industry composition
Gift boxes

Paper boxes from China come in numerous forms, trimmings and sizes. Geometric designs such as rectangular, square, round, oval and polygonal are common. Vaulted, and heart- and star-shaped pieces are also prevalent. Models in novelty forms are 3 to 20 percent more expensive than square and round versions.

Card-, gray- and paperboard are the typical base types. The first comes in duplex, which is more commonly used, and triplex. Densities of the three materials range from 350 to 6,000gsm, with 800 to 1,200gsm sheets frequently employed.

Wood-free, specialty and 100 to 250gsm art paper, fabrics, and PVC, PU and genuine leather are utilized for mounting. Genuine leather is the most expensive and includes pig-, sheep- and deerskin, and cowhide. PU leather, meanwhile, costs more than the PVC type.

Popular fabrics are satin, velvet, microsuede, fleece and cotton. Some are embroidered.

Art and wood-free variants are dominant, and can be offset printed or laminated with laser film. The latter technique is less costly.

Nearly all paper-mounted products without laser film are varnished with either glossy or matte OPP film or UV oil.

Although OPP film increases prices 15 percent, it is largely used to make boxes more water-resistant. Several models, on the other hand, are overlaid with the film and then finished with UV oil.

Specialty paper comes in different colors and densities. Most are textured, while a few have fabric- and leatherlike surfaces. Together with this material, synthetic and genuine leather, and fabrics boast decorative colors and grains. As a result, they are often unadorned or printed only with simple patterns such as logos.

Designs of this kind are silk-screened. Hot-stamped versions are quoted 1 percent higher. Models with embossed images go for about $0.75 less than hot-stamped versions.

Pad and heat transfer methods are seldom used. Although thermal application produces better results than pad and silk-screening, it is costlier.

Four-color printed patterns with at least one Pantone hue add 10 percent to prices.

Various closing styles are available, including top-and-bottom lid, flap top, turnover lid with magnet, sliding drawer and metal hinge.

Aside from flocked sponge padding, satin- or velvet-overlaid polyfoam is available. This raises quotes between 10 and 20 percent.

Among the common ornaments are fabric ribbons, paillettes and transparent PVC windows. Models with the first two go for an extra 2 to 5 percent.

Because designs are often customized, prices are highly flexible, ranging from $0.10 to $7. Pieces in the $0.20 to $2 segment dominate the industry.

For instance, Dongguan Heng Feng has A4-sized 10cm-high boxes based on 1,000gsm cardboard, with 128 art or 110 to 140gsm specialty paper mounting and glossy or matte film. Logos are foil-stamped or embossed. These go for $0.95 to $1.66 each. Some synthetic and genuine leather-mounted versions are more than $6.

Suppliers can offer test reports by third-party organizations such as SGS for environmental friendliness and nontoxicity. Finished products and materials are covered.

Gift bags

Typical gift bags from China are paper and plastic, with smaller designs in organza. Similar in size and design, paper and plastic versions are often rectangular or trapezoidal. Novelty shapes, including triangular and curved-edge, are priced 10 percent higher.

Kraft, specialty, wood-free and 100 to 300gsm art paper, and 200 to 300gsm paperboard are frequently used.

Designs in kraft paper are 5 percent more expensive than those in the other materials.

Specialty paper comes in pieces of smaller dimensions such as 640x940 or 600x900mm. Due to its size, specialty paper limits the patterns it can be cut into. As a result, it is more wasteful to use in production than the kraft type.

All other materials have 889x1194 and 787x1094mm sizes for large and medium formats, respectively.

Costlier surface treatments are offered for art and wood-free paper, and paperboard models. Examples are 4-color offset printing, OPP film laminating and UV oil coating.

Handles are ordinarily made of nylon and cotton ropes. Transparent PVC tubes and die-cut versions are also available. Products with nylon ropes are priced 5 percent lower than PVC tubes.

Various trimmings include buttons, lids, cards and small pockets. Decussate ropes and ribbons add 5 percent to prices.

Plastic gift bags are opaque, transparent and translucent. Opaque versions are often printed with multicolor patterns on a white background. Popular materials are PVC, PP and PET.

Organza bags are offered as well. Dominant designs are drawstring, colored, round or rectangular, and laced.

Ningbo Hongshine Decorative Packing Industrial Co. Ltd's models come in 5x7 to 30x40cm sizes.

Gift packaging accessories

China suppliers carry ribbons, bows and wrappings. All are made of fabric, although the last can also come in paper.

Satin, taffeta, grosgrain, dobby, organza and velvet are commonly used. These are derived from polyester and nylon, or a combination of at least two materials. Some are elastic or metallic.

Ribbons vary in width. For example, Yama's double-face satin products range from 2 to 100mm, while grosgrain velvet versions are 4 to 26mm.

The company has obtained Oeko Tex Standard 100 certification for its azo-free ribbons. Yama's releases go for $0.025 to $2.60 per meter.

Ningbo Hongshine's designs are 2 to 50mm wide and $0.004 to $0.035 for every meter.

Organza is the least-expensive fabric, while velvet is the costliest. Ribbons made of the latter go for twice the price of grosgrain variants, which are, in turn, 10 to 15 percent more expensive than double-face satin pieces.

Printing adds $0.01 to $0.02 per meter to product quotes. Several methods are employed, including silk-screening, stamping, and offset, golden or silver foil, glitter, thermoset, thick plate, puff, heat transfer and rotary.

Ribbons come in different shapes such as star, flower and curly.

Prices depend generally on material, size and design complexity. For instance, the FA-81 model from Yama is a 5cm-wide curly bow made of five 6mm strips of grosgrain with a clear twist stick.

The supplier's FA-15 model, on the other hand, is a 19cm flower-shaped design made of 63 and 32mm-wide single-face satin ribbons.

The products go for $0.081 and $0.41, respectively.

Industry composition

In general, suppliers in China have in-house production capability. Gift box and bag makers, for example, do paper cutting, printing, laminating, UV oil coating and molding. Other buyer-specified surface treatments are subcontracted.

Ribbon companies perform fabric cutting, weaving, sewing, dyeing, printing and handwork.

Typically used imported machines include Heidelberg and Manroland AG from Germany, and Komori, Ryobi and Mitsubishi from Japan.

Large manufacturers comply with a number of standards, and have more efficient QC and environment-friendly production. Many are ISO 9001-certified.

Ningbo Tianjiu and Ningbo Jiarui Printing Industry Co. Ltd comply with ISO 4001. The latter has also secured ISO 18001 and SA8000 approval.

Dongguan Heng Feng has a wastewater treatment facility and a paper-shredding machine to sell scraps back to paper mills.

The majority of small and midsize companies can offer reports on azo content for their models. Further, some are collecting waste materials to give to recycling factories.

This article "Cardboard gift boxes: Makers improve designs, explore new destinations" is originally posted in Global Sources.

Note: All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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