PPC: Over 80 Years of Excellence

The year 1929 is generally not one remembered with fondness. But the year of the Great Depression was also the year the first packaging association was founded by the Marathon Corporation. Named the Paraffin Carton Association because one of the first uses of folding cartons was to package moist or oily foods such as butter and ice cream. Cartons were literally bathed in hot wax to help seal the box and prevent wicking. The name was eventually changed to the Institute for Better Packaging (IBP).

After the stock market crashed, in 1933, thirteen folding carton manufacturers met in Washington, D.C. to organize objectives and establish a Code of Fair Competition, which included 40-hour work weeks and a minimum wage of forty cents per hour in the North and thirty-five cents the South. (However, women would earn just five cents per hour.) This organization was called the Folding Paper Box Association of America (FPBAA).

At its first meeting, 61 companies representing 60% of the industry were present. In addition to influencing regulations that affected the industry and promoting the use of paperboard packaging, the FPBAA  conducted sophisticated market research into consumer's visual responses to various graphics on packaging.

Over the years, many committees were added to the four-person staff, including those devoted to programs, publications, technical and production advancements, and a committee to oversee an annual competition for excellence in folding carton design and execution. This "carton competition" has been held yearly since 1942.

From IBP and FPBAA to PPC
Originally, the goal of the association during the Depression years was simply to hold the industry together and keep companies from failing. As the country hauled itself out of the Depression and into the boom years of the 1950s and '60s, the FPBAA changed its mission. Companies and the economy stabilized, and Ed Iciek, who joined in 1956, was brought in to install one of the industry’s first data processing systems. The goal was to provide statistics, marketing information, and management tools that would help members make more informed decisions in running their businesses.

Early membership consisted of small to medium-sized independents, carton converters who purchased their paperboard from paper mills. The only “integrated” company that operated both paper mills and carton plants was Container Corporation of America. At its peak in the 1950s, the FPBAA had approximately 200 members representing 80% of the industry’s sales volume.

As technology advanced, the IBP, which had been formed primarily to represent producers of packaging for oily and frozen food products, realized that the industry was growing beyond its original mission. Packaging for ice cream, butter, and frozen food containers became less specialized, and the FPBAA and IBT saw the need to merge. By 1963, a research committee recommended a new association be formed from the two original organizations, and on April 29, 1964 the Paperboard Packaging Council officially formed to speak and act on behalf of the entire folding carton industry.

A Unified PPC
At first, the PPC operated as two separate divisions, each original association having its own board of directors that functioned under a board of trustees. But this proved unwieldy, and by 1967, the board of trustees dissolved and created an Executive Committee and Board of Directors to run the association. The first annual meeting of a unified PPC took place in 1968 at the Drake Hotel in Chicago, IL.

During the 1970s and '80s, the industry experienced a prolonged period of consolidation and by 1992 when Iciek retired, integrated companies were producing 40% of all carton business. In 1997, 60 companies were producing 75% of all folding carton sales. And according to the U.S. Census, between 1997 and 2004, the number of folding carton plants shrank from 582 to 456.

In 2010, the North American Packaging Association merged with PPC, creating a stronger, more resilient industry association.

While mature, this $8+ billion industry is more technologically advanced and efficient than at any time in its history. The world has also recognized the need to conserve its resources and become independent of foreign oil. With this in mind, PPC accelerated its efforts to promote the benefits of paperboard packaging. Emphasizing the renewable, recyclable qualities of paperboard, the association has established a Sustainability Committee to assist its members as they capitalize on the opportunity to promote their products and increase market share.

Starting from its humble beginnings as a small confederation of boxmakers, PPC has grown to provide its members with educational and information services on government regulations, statistics, safety, finance, and technology. It has added state-of-the-art database management, webinars, and program agendas that fulfill its commitment to develop the next generation of packaging leaders.

Over the decades, PPC has grown to become the leading trade association serving suppliers and converters of all forms of paperboard packaging. Its guiding principles have always been—and continue to be—to grow, promote, and protect the paperboard packaging industry while providing its members with resources and tools to compete effectively and successfully in the marketplace.

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