The Foodservice Packaging Institute, Falls Church, Va., released the 11th annual Trends Report, which reveals that industry opinions are largely focused on sustainable packaging and customization of products to meet consumer demand.

“Trends in 2019 focused on sustainability and the need for tamper-evident or tamper-resistant packaging — much of which is consumer driven,” says Natha Dempsey, vice president. “And, while the ‘paper or plastic’ debate continues, ‘recyclable or compostable’ is the newer — and perhaps more important — question being asked.”

When it comes to foodservice packaging materials, respondents say there is growing interest in paper and fiber, deemed by some to be more “sustainable.” They cite the general pushback on plastics, which has meant a shift back to paper in categories such as cups, food containers, carry-out bags and straws.

Respondents say plastic is still a large part of the industry due to its myriad benefits. However, shifts continue within resin types. PET and polypropylene have grown in market share, and there is increased interest in bio-based and “biodegradable” resins that may be seen as more sustainable.

One additional trend noted by respondents is the increased interest in and new legislation requiring the use of reusables instead of single-use foodservice packaging.

In other parts of the foodservice packaging supply chain, respondents noted similar trends to those from previous trends reports:

  • For a second year in a row, delivery was top of mind in the foodservice operator community. Increased use of delivery as an option to get prepared meals to consumers continues to drive the need for tamper-evident or tamper-resistant packaging.
  • Foodservice distributors struggle to keep up with the proliferation of options as the foodservice packaging industry continues to design new products to meet the changing needs of customers.
  • The need to reduce costs, deal with labor shortage and speed up processes has meant that automation continues to be an important part of the machinery industry that supports foodservice packaging.

“We found that many of this year’s trends report results show that the more things change, the more they stay the same,” says Dempsey.