State of the Industry — Pandemic Edition

For the past 21 years, we’ve been conducting our annual State of the Industry Survey. It’s our opportunity to hear from the industry and compile that information to get a true snapshot of what today’s foodservice packaging industry looks like. As you can imagine, things didn’t go exactly as planned this year.

Typically, this survey goes out in the first quarter of the year to both members and non-members. This year we’re in the midst of a pandemic, the likes of which have not been seen in more than 100 years. In order to capture a snapshot of the North American foodservice packaging space during this time, we decided to conduct a more timely survey of our member companies. The membership represents the value chain in North America, including raw material suppliers, machinery suppliers and converters.

We wanted to be very specific in this survey. We made sure to ask only about products that fall under FPI’s definitions of foodservice packaging and their manufacturing processes. Our membership supplies and manufactures a diverse list of materials and products outside of foodservice packaging, so we had to ask direct questions and acknowledge that they cannot be construed as conclusive to the condition or operating status of the supplier and converter companies who participated.

The majority of respondents are converter or raw material suppliers who are designated essential businesses and allowed to remain in operation. While these respondents are able to continue operations, they had to reconfigure things like work schedules, manufacturing procedures and safety procedures to accommodate COVID-19 precautions. The good news is that the majority of respondent companies have not, and do not plan to reduce staff due to COVID-19.

But, what about the products? That’s where we unsurprisingly saw more variety in responses. Nearly half of member respondents have seen a decrease in their foodservice packaging production and sales while a little more than 25% have seen their production increase. The biggest decreases in production came from products, such as coffee products, cups, drink carriers and paper cups, bags and wraps. This aligns with decreased sales in some of those same categories.

While it is still too early to make any definite predictions, members have seen a reduction in orders of foodservice packaging. But, they are still able to keep facilities open and obtain raw materials for production without experiencing too many shipping and transportation disruptions.

Time will tell how our industry fares through this pandemic. FPI remains committed to supporting our members and our industry throughout these turbulent times. A full copy of the COVID-19 Report is available to members on our website.

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