Foodservice Packaging Industry Continues to Ride Post-Pandemic Waves

The past couple of years have been a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, full of challenges. We really thought 2022 would be the return to the normalcy we’ve all been craving. We were wrong.

Now in its 14th year, our Trends Report is a snapshot into what the industry is seeing. Each year, we collect opinions from companies throughout the foodservice packaging supply chain, including raw material and machinery suppliers, packaging manufacturers, distributors and operators. We take those insights and direct comments and compile them into a lengthy report. Then, we provide analysis based on those submissions, as well as our own general industry observations.

This year’s 2022 Trends Report showed us that just like the past few years, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the foodservice packaging industry. There’s increased economic pressure on an already stretched global supply chain, increased focus on the foodservice packaging industry from a legislative and regulatory policy perspective, and movement and growth in both the foodservice segments drawing consumers and the ways in which they choose to have their foodservice delivered — or not.

Change, and adaptability, seems to be the new norm. In the foodservice packaging space, we’ve seen versatility and flexibility requirements applied across the board. Everything from raw material inputs, machinery and equipment to the packaging being manufactured itself, must be adaptable — and quickly.

Respondents said they’re being asked to “do more with less.” This presents in different ways. Whether it’s requests to the converter community for multi-purpose machinery that allows manufacturers to quickly switch out sizes and formats, or operators who require a single package that can support multiple offerings and functions, we don’t expect these requests for flexible packaging to slow down.

While policy has always been a factor in our industry, it’s particularly top-of-mind with extended producer responsibility (EPR) becoming increasingly present. It’s a relatively new concept in the U.S., with only four states having laws on the books. We’re seeing complexities and inconsistencies related to defined terms and responsible parties causing confusion and concern for respondents. Add that to the ever-increasing patchwork of state legislations defining what’s considered ‘recyclable’ and ‘compostable’ — and it’s no surprise that the industry is struggling for consistency.

As we continue to ride the post-pandemic waves, we’re seeing different parts of the foodservice space waxing and waning. Wider selections and evolving foodservice options have led to growth in the grocery and convenience store spaces. Grocery meals to-go and convenience store foodservice appeal to consumers who want to consolidate trips out of the home, but still want the convenience of not cooking.

We’ve also seen the resurgence of the breakfast daypart, particularly as consumers return to the office and spend more time away from home. Snacking — a favored pastime during the pandemic — remains a strong trend.

We are still seeing shifts in how consumers receive their meals and foodservice. Respondents reported they are seeing continued demand for off-premises dining, growing along with demand for drive-thru and curbside pick-up.

Consumers are being more conscientious of where their dollars go as inflation significantly impacts food and fuel costs. Could this lead to the delivery market being tapped out? As delivery feeds to both third-party and native delivery sources continue to rise, we’re seeing signs of this.

Through it all, change is the only thing that felt consistent through 2022. Facing our new normal and looking to the future, it’s likely the foodservice packaging industry will continue to feel and face the pressures.

Please click here for an executive summary of the report.

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