COVID-19 Pandemic Has Mixed Impact on Fresh Produce Corrugated Box Market

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on fresh produce corrugated box usage varied in 2020, finds a new Freedonia Group analysis. Healthy increases in demand were seen in the retail sector, especially online grocery applications, while foodservice markets were restrained by a reduction in sales of produce to full-service restaurants and schools.

Overall, the produce industry proved to be resilient, with production of fresh fruits and vegetables falling only about 1% compared to the prior year. Though the foodservice sector was hit hard by the pandemic due to dramatic reductions in dine-in patronage, quick -service restaurants and other foodservice establishments shifted to a model relying on drive-thru and carry-out customers, and an expansion of delivery options.

Retail-Ready Products Continue to Drive Produce Box Demand

Demand for corrugated boxes used to package fresh produce is projected to increase 3.3% annually to $2.4 billion in 2024, supported by:

  • modest increases in domestic produce production
  • increased use of value-added boxes, such as those with retail-ready features designed to reduce labor costs

While retail-ready boxes are expected to register strong advances, other box types will continue to see their market share encroached upon by reusable plastic containers (RPCs), which are increasingly used by Walmart and other grocers both in logistical applications and retail display areas.

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Fresh Produce Corrugated Boxes analyzes the US market for produce corrugated boxes. Historical data (2009, 2014, and 2019) and forecasts for 2024 are presented for produce packaging demand in current US dollars (including inflation) and units by product and application.

Products covered include the following corrugated box types:

  • regular slotted containers
  • full telescoping boxes
  • boxes with cut-outs for display purposes
  • open-top tray-style boxes
  • fold-over gift boxes
  • bulk bins
  • display-ready boxes

Demand is also discussed by produce applications:

  • fresh vegetables (e.g., tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, onions, carrots, mushrooms celery, cabbage, peppers)
  • fresh fruit (e.g., berries, apples, melons, citrus, grapes)
  • salad