Conflicting Trends

What a year it has been!

While it’s hard to believe that our 10th annual Trends Report has just been released, it’s even harder to believe that the biggest trends to emerge from this year’s survey are in direct conflict with one another.

Yes, you read that correctly. The two greatest trends identified in the foodservice packaging industry this year are the push-back on single-use products, regardless of material, and that delivery continues to be one of the biggest sales drivers for the foodservice industry.

If you’re scratching your head trying to figure this one out, let me explain.

Every 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, then we provide analysis based on those submissions, as well as our own general industry observations.

This year we saw tremendous push-back on single-use products with a primary focus on plastic — so much of a focus that the plastic straw even became the poster child for this movement. But, we also saw that delivery offerings have elevated the importance of single-use foodservice packaging. After all, you can’t have delivery without single-use foodservice packaging and the reasons are three-fold.

First, single-use foodservice packaging keeps hot foods hot and cold foods cold as it’s delivered. Second, the package protects the food inside once in transport, leading to greater use of tamper-evident packs. Third, it creates the opportunity to promote a foodservice brand when the customer doesn’t interact with the brand itself, often using third-party apps to order.

While it remains to be seen how the industry and those influencing it will reconcile these two trends, we do know that the foodservice packaging industry will continue to deliver new and innovative products to a growing market, satisfying customers and consumers alike.

Despite the prominence of the two main trends, another top concern noted by survey respondents is market intervention. Whether through bans or tariffs on foodservice packaging, government intervention in the marketplace is a constant pressure point for the supply chain.

Survey respondents also say there will be greater reliance on e-commerce and technology. Foodservice distribution is moving away from personal relationships with distribution sales representatives to online orders, or cutting out the distributors altogether and relying on internet vendors for foodservice packaging.

But, distribution is not the only link in the supply chain where technology is having an impact — machinery suppliers are increasingly turning to automation and customers are placing food and beverage orders using apps and in-store kiosks.

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These changes do create efficiencies in the sales process and can even cut back on labor costs but they’re coming at the expense of human interaction. It’s human interaction that brings together the entire supply chain and, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from a year of conflicting trends, it’s that together, we are stronger.

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