Clamshell Food Packaging Suppliers Innovate Away From Traditional Virgin Plastics

Rising use of paper, bioplastics, molded fibers, and other higher value sustainable materials over traditional virgin plastics is projected to boost growth in the $1.3 billion US market for clamshell packaging in retail food applications through 2025, finds a new Freedonia Group analysis:

  • Historically, clamshell packaging for retail food has been comprised almost entirely of rigid plastic.
  • While the vast majority of clamshell packaging will continue to be made of plastic, due in part to the importance of high visibility in key applications, sustainability concerns are expected to spur the use of other materials.
  • The most notable of these materials include paperboard and sugarcane, as they are biodegradable, compostable, and offer a more natural image.

Molded Fiber Clamshells to See Significant Growth Opportunities

While paperboard and molded pulp products have been available for some time, performance drawbacks have limited greater use in the clamshell food packaging market. That’s a major reason that molded sugarcane – also known as bagasse – is increasingly being championed as a potentially more viable sustainable alternative to rigid plastic packaging, including clamshells:

  • Besides being recyclable and compostable, molded sugarcane packaging is made from the waste created during sugar extraction, making it a prime candidate for innovation by companies looking toward a sustainable future.
  • Molded sugarcane also offers performance improvements over rigid plastic, such as increasing the shelf life of produce.

While demand for molded sugarcane and other materials is expected to surge and gain market share from plastic through 2025, growth will be from a negligible base, and plastic will continue to dominate for the foreseeable future. Additionally, to boost their competitiveness in a changing market, many suppliers of plastic clamshells are increasing their focus on sustainability. For example:

  • Many manufacturers’ clamshells use post-consumer PET and are, in turn, recyclable, closing the loop on plastic production.
  • Produce packaging suppliers are increasingly utilizing biobased and/or biodegradable plastic materials to enhance their sustainability profile.
  • Over 20 fresh berry suppliers made a joint pledge in 2020 to have all plastic packaging be reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025.

Want to Learn More?

Clamshells in Retail Food Packaging, now available from The Freedonia Group, provides historical data (2010, 2015, and 2020) and forecasts for 2025 and 2030 for demand for retail food clamshell packaging by market in current dollars.


  • fresh produce, including fruits and salad
  • baked goods, such as cakes, cookies, and pastries
  • snacks, such as dried fruit, nuts, and trail mix
  • fresh prepared foods, such as sandwiches and salads
  • other foods, such as savory snacks and chocolate

This study only covers retail usage of clamshell packaging. Clamshells used for foodservice, such as those used in fast-food and other restaurant takeout applications, are not included. Furthermore, only clamshells for packaged food are included; clamshells used for self-serve applications in retail locations are excluded from this study.