COVID’s Continuing Impact on Our Industry

In early 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic that had major ramifications on the foodservice packaging industry, we conducted a new-to-us survey — our COVID-19 survey. We did it to capture a snapshot of the North American foodservice packaging manufacturing space.

While we hoped we would be in a different position by the end of the year, the pandemic continued. We knew we needed to understand how the second half of the year impacted the industry. So, we conducted a second, follow-up survey in December 2020 to capture the continuing landscape of the pandemic. 

To conduct this second edition, we surveyed our membership, representing the value chain in North America, including raw material suppliers, machinery suppliers and converters. We wanted to be very specific — we only asked questions 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 asked direct questions and acknowledged that they cannot be construed as conclusive to the condition or operating status of the supplier and converter companies who participated.

As in the first edition of the COVID-19 survey, respondents are converter or raw material suppliers who are designated essential businesses and allowed to remain in operation. These respondents had to reconfigure things like work schedules, manufacturing procedures and safety procedures to accommodate COVID-19 precautions, but the vast majority of them said things were better in December than they were earlier in the year.

Although members say things are largely better, roughly 40% of the respondents saw a decrease in their foodservice packaging production and more than 80% of member respondents have held flat or decreased their foodservice packaging sales.

According to converter respondents, containers, foam, meat trays, and paper bag/wraps were among the specific categories that saw increases. The raw material suppliers saw increases in foam polystyrene and papers used in QSR packaging and decreases in trays and paper cups.

Despite the decrease in foodservice packaging production and orders, nearly all member respondents have been able to keep their manufacturing facilities open and more than 60% have been able to get raw materials without issue. The biggest problems seem to stem from shipping and transportation disruptions with 63% of member respondents experiencing issues. It remains to be seen how our industry will continue to fare through this pandemic although signs point to resiliency. FPI remains committed to supporting our members and our industry, pandemic or not. A full copy of the second edition COVID-19 Report is available to members on our website.

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