It’s no secret that working at FPI means we tend to live and breathe all things foodservice packaging. But, despite our knowledge of this industry and the ways people within the industry view it, we still didn’t know if we really understood how consumers think about the cup holding their on-the-go coffee or the Chinese take-out container, or even the utensils they use at a catered office lunch.
To gain an inside look at how consumers view foodservice packaging, we decided to work with a third party to conduct a survey. This survey was designed to find out not only the frequency of use, but the perceptions on and around packaging. We also wanted to make sure that we were getting an accurate picture of consumer perception. So, we surveyed 800 respondents between the ages of 18 and 60+ in the United States and Canada. Those respondents — roughly 400 from each country — were balanced across income, education level, gender and region. Setting our sample size was critical to statistically represent the beliefs of these populations with a 95 percent confidence rate and a plus / minus 5 percent margin of error.
Some of the results validated things we knew, and some of the results were surprising. One of the points that was not surprising was the fact that more than half of the adults use single-use foodservice packaging at least once each week! In Canada, the only factor influencing people’s perceptions is the frequency with which they use single-use foodservice packaging, while in the United States there were some additional factors influencing perceptions. Particularly that those with the highest incomes were most likely to use single-use foodservice packaging every day, and higher education levels appeared to correlate to higher use.
When asked to rate the importance of seven different performance attributes for single-use packaging items, respondents from both countries rated being leak or spill proof and stopping stains as two very important attributes of foodservice packaging, followed by their ability to protect foods / beverages from being tampered with when being delivered.
Respondents were also asked to rate the importance of four potential benefits of single-use packaging and were in agreement on the importance of these benefits, with the cleanliness and the sanitary nature of the packaging ranking alongside the convenience of the packaging, with convenience just barely ahead. One of the more concerning issues with single-use packaging was the possibility of it ending up as litter on land or in waterways.
Turning to environmental beliefs, two-thirds of respondents in both the U.S. and Canada claimed that “recyclable” was the most important environmental attribute of single-use foodservice packaging.
While understanding consumer perceptions of single-use foodservice packaging was our main goal, we also wanted to gain a holistic view. So, we even asked respondents similar questions about reusable options. Their environmental attributes were seen as the top benefit by respondents, but, there were also concerns about the cleanliness of these reusable options.
Overall, we learned a lot from this survey and many of the findings can be found in the executive summary. But, if you want the complete picture, including some additional opinions on consumer behavior and purchasing decisions, you’ll have to check out the full survey (available only to FPI members).