The decision to source new foodservice packaging for your establishment is important — but it doesn’t need to be difficult. This guide will take you through important details to help organize your needs. There are three options for sourcing foodservice packaging: directly from a packaging manufacturer, through a foodservice distributor, or at a retailer such as a club or “cash and carry” store.

Reasons to buy from a packaging manufacturer:

  • You are looking for customized packaging (graphics, size, shape).
  • You have high volumes (usually defined as more than 1,000 cases per year).
  • You have an established distribution network.
  • You may be considered a strategic or national account.
  • You have no distributor in your area that carries the desired product.

Reasons to buy from a foodservice distributor:

  •  Your needs will be met by stock packaging (some custom packaging services available).
  • You have low volumes (usually defined as less than 1,000 cases per year).
  • You are looking for the distributor to deliver the packaging to you.

Reasons to buy from a retailer:

  • Your needs will be met by stock packaging.
  • You have low volumes (usually defined as less than 1,000 cases per year).
  • You are able to deliver the packaging from a retailer to your foodservice operation.


  • DO evaluate packaging decisions early on during your menu development.
  • DO communicate to your supplier all the features and functions the packaging should have.
  • DO test samples by using them, not simply seeing them empty. (Tip: To simplify testing, use packaging under the maximum condition or environment.)
  • DO consider the environmental attributes of the packaging.
  • DO think of your foodservice packaging as potential advertising.
  • DO review the packaging budget prior to moving forward with a custom package.


  • DON’T assess only the lowest cost option.
  • DON’T assume that custom packaging is the best option.
  • DON’T conclude that all foods and beverages can go in the same packaging.
  • DON’T forget to periodically assess your packaging to make sure it still meets your needs.
  • DON’T neglect any regulatory or compliance requirements based on where the package will be sold.

Meeting Your Packaging Needs

Foodservice packaging comes in many shapes, sizes and colors for all types of foods and beverages. The more information you can provide to, and request from, your potential packaging suppliers, the better a supplier can meet your needs. The following pages serve as a request for proposal (RFP). You can simply fill it out and distribute it to potential packaging suppliers, or use it as a guide to create your own RFP. Alternatively, you may complete and submit the RFP to the Foodservice Packaging Institute. Once received, FPI will distribute it to its members, which include most of the foodservice packaging manufacturers in North America. FPI offers other resources, including a free monthly newsletter to keep up to date on the latest in foodservice packaging innovations and a comprehensive product listing.