Trending Up and Down

Another year, another enticing Trends Report. And what a rollercoaster ride this year has been!

If you are a member of FPI, or have been following along over the years, you’ll know that 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.

We always look forward to this survey because it gives us a chance to confirm — or refute — the different trends we think we are seeing in the marketplace throughout the year. This year’s 2019 Trends Report was no different in that industry opinions are largely focused on sustainable packaging and customization of products to meet the demands of consumers.

As plastics continue to receive general pushback across the board, respondents say that there’s a growing interest in paper and fiber, materials that some deem to be more “sustainable.” This pushback on plastic has led many operators to shift back to paper in categories such as cups, food containers, carryout bags and, yes, even straws.

The sustainability trend continues and increases, as does the need for tamper-evident or tamper-resistant packaging — much of which is consumer driven. And while the ‘paper or plastic’ debate continues, ‘recyclable or compostable’ seems to be the newer — and perhaps more important — question being asked as end of life or next life considerations are being increasingly deliberated.

For the past few years, there was more interest in compostable than recyclable, but in both cases, there are known infrastructure challenges. The increased interest in compostable could be the result of negative press about the state of the recycling industry.

Another possible headwind for some compostable packaging is the growing concern about PFAS, those fluorinated chemicals used to provide oil and grease resistance in some paper packaging — especially molded fiber products. PFAS was top of mind for many of our respondents, whether related to public scrutiny over this class of chemicals, interest in replacements or changes to compostability certifications.

With some of these new, or more prominent trends, came some similar trends to those noted in the past. Things like delivery being top of mind for foodservice operators and foodservice distributors struggling to keep up with the proliferation of options as the industry continues to design new products intended to meet the changing needs of consumers. There’s also the ever-present need to reduce costs, deal with labor shortages and speed up processes, leading to increased automation.

And, as always, there’s one additional trend noted by both respondents and FPI staff. A trend that could shake up the entire industry — increased interest in and new legislation requiring the use of reusables instead of single-use foodservice packaging. Will “reusables” be a trend or will it become a major driver of the industry, just as “sustainable” has been? Only time will tell. But, we have confidence that working together continues to make us a stronger and more viable industry.

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