Beyond Apples & Berries, Packaging Use Grows in More Fresh Fruit Applications

Beyond Apples & Berries, Packaging Use Grows in More Fresh Fruit Applications

The Freedonia Group finds that, while apples and berries will remain the largest applications for fresh fruit packaging through 2024, strong increases in ready-to-eat fruit demand will yield strong growth opportunities for packaging suppliers in other applications, as well, particularly melons, grapes, pineapple, mangoes, peaches, and pears.

A new Freedonia Group analysis forecasts demand for fresh fruit packaging to increase 4.0% per year to $2.4 billion in 2024. Sales gains will be supported by:

  • rising demand for fresh fruit sold in some form of packaging, including pouches, bags, and rigid plastic containers
  • more intensive use of higher value packaging that offers convenience and ease-of-use features, superior performance and shelf life, and/or improved environmental footprint
  • increasing sales of ready-to-eat (RTE) pre-cut fruit such as apple slices, melon spears, and citrus segments that are typically sold in tubs, cups, or other rigid plastic containers

Continued elevated retail grocery spending in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic will bolster gains, at least in the near term. Nonetheless, increases will be limited by relatively slow growth in overall domestic fresh fruit output, with declines projected for a few key fruit types, including citrus.

Berries & Apples Remain the Best Opportunities for Packaging Suppliers

Apples and berries will remain the largest markets for fresh fruit packaging in value terms, together accounting for 51% of demand:

  • Growth in apple packaging demand will be above average, supported by a projected increase in domestic apple production and rising demand for apple slices packaged individually for convenience and snacking.
  • Berries are relatively intensive users of higher cost rigid packaging containers due to their greater need for protection compared to other fruits, and packaging demand will also benefit from rebounds in domestic production and increasing availability of smaller sizes.

Traditionally, apples sold in grocery stores have been displayed in bulk, or in bags holding approximately three pounds. While a large portion of apples will continue to be displayed in these formats, a growing share of apples – including sliced apples – is being sold in pouches and rigid plastic containers.

While clamshells and corrugated boxes will remain the dominant packaging types in the berry market – where these products are widely used together – other packaging products, including reusable plastic containers and plastic containers other than clamshells, are expected to register gains, as well. For example, RPCs are increasingly used with bags in cranberry applications, and use of two-piece plastic containers is expanding for fresh-cut strawberries and berry blends.

Ready-to-Eat Fresh Fruit Trends Boost Prospects for Pouches & Plastic Cups

Growth in ready-to-eat fresh fruit sales is expected to remain strong, boosting demand for a range of packaging types, especially pouches and plastic cups, which are expected to see the fastest gains in the fresh fruit packaging market through 2024:

  • Growth for pouches, including stand-up and pillow pouches, is expected to outpace that of all other commonly used types of fresh fruit packaging. Pouches continue to supplant commodity bags in a range of fresh fruit applications, particularly RTE pre-cut/pre-sliced fruit, due to their superior display properties and convenience.
  • Plastic containers, especially cups and two-piece plastic containers, are also set to make significant gains in the fresh fruit packaging market due to their growing use with smaller fruits and in fresh-cut RTE applications.

Corrugated Boxes’ Market Lead Bolstered by Retail-Ready Packaging Trends

Despite quick growth in plastic retail packaging, corrugated boxes are expected to remain the leading fresh fruit packaging type through 2024 due to their extensive use in fruit shipping – especially for apples, citrus, berries, and grapes:

  • Increases in the amount of fruit packaged in rigid plastic containers by growers and distributors (rather than at the retail level) will benefit corrugated box demand to an extent, since rigid containers can have greater cube space than loose fruit, requiring use of more box space overall.
  • Use of value-added, retail-ready packaging such as modular produce boxes for prepackaged fruit – particularly apples, citrus, and grapes, which are the fastest growing applications – can increase the convenience of stocking and displaying these items at retail.

Want to Learn More?

Fresh Fruit Packaging is now available from the Freedonia Group.

About the Author:

Peter Kusnic is a Content Writer with The Freedonia Group, where he researches and writes studies focused on an array of industries.

  Food & Beverage      Industry Studies      Packaging