The Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI) is the trade association for the foodservice packaging industry in North America.
Every year it conducts a survey with its members to get their feedback on the various sectors.
This year, it asked companies about the trends they see in foodservice packaging; the raw materials used, the machinery, distribution and operations.
More conscious of materials
“Foodservice brand owners are realizing that consumers relate the quality of the food to the quality of the packaging. This has driven them to be more conscious of packaging material selections,” said one survey member.
Another responded to say: “Trends that we are witnessing within the industry remain very consistent in several ways which would include softer sales, increased competition, and a need for innovation.
“The emerging trends we see are how people are trying to offset these challenges. Additionally, better food products, better packaging, with the understanding that spending a little bit of money will help them differentiate their brands.
“We are seeing this specifically within the limited service restaurants category within menu items including sandwiches, salads, specialty coffee.”
Top three trends
The top three trends the survey highlighted were:
Trend 1: Cups, cups, cups.
Foodservice operators are turning to new and expanded beverage options to boost their bottom lines. That means paying more attention to beverage packaging. Polystyrene foam and single-wall paper cups have long dominated, but competition is growing in both the hot and cold beverage container categories.
New product usage includes insulated double-wall paper cups, and insulated plastic cups made from polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Also, increased use of recycled content in both paper and plastic cups.
Trend 2: Paper or Plastic?
It's not that simple anymore. With advances in research and development, technologies, price fluctuations, environmental pressures and the increased supply of recycled materials, more material options exist in foodservice packaging than ever before.
Each of these materials provides its own benefits and allows for healthy competition within the industry.
“Let's just hope that unwanted government intervention can be kept at bay, allowing foodservice operators to select what works best for their business and their customers,” an FPI spokesman said.
Trend 3: Size matters.
Size continues to play a large role in the market, with smaller single-serve items trending in restaurants. The top reasons include nutritional purposes, cost-cutting measures, gaining non-traditional day parts and catering to a growing consumer base that tends to "graze" throughout the day.
Packaging plays an increasingly important role in supporting menu trends and consumer demands due to more competition and growth in the grab 'n go category, stronger interest from convenience stores and distribution channel changes.
Other comments FPI received as part of its feedback include:
“We see more of an emphasis placed on the role of packaging in general. Operators basically expect more from their packaging, whether it is unique functionality, aesthetics, ability to customize, or environmental benefits.”
“Reduction in food waste by using better packaging will be more and more the goal. “
“More and more manufacturers now offer ‘green’ packaging. Many customers ask, as they would like to be more environmentally minded – but price and function still drive their decisions.”
“Green is good, local is green, money is green."
“More environmental responsibility in everything. Packaging. Buying local. Reduced footprint.”
FPI was established in 1933. Its members include raw material and machinery suppliers, packaging converters, foodservice distributors and operators/retailers.