Operators of cafeterias and restaurants are both still grappling with the ideal carryout packaging more than a year into the pandemic-driven push toward takeout.
- Initially, they used whatever containers they could get as demand spiked above supplies.
- The next step was to optimize the package for food quality, retaining food temperature, minimizing spills and leaks, maintaining appearance, and even including tamper evident features.
- However, the packaging still has to be cost effective, particularly for school cafeterias and low-priced restaurant options, both of which have limited room in their budgets.
- Once the basics were satisfied, sustainability became a factor – can the packaging be compostable, reusable, or recyclable while remaining functional and within an affordable price?
The rising prices of paper and plastic packaging have made reusables more appealing because it takes fewer uses for the container to become a better deal in terms of costs. However, facilities that go with reusable options must have sufficient dishwashing capacity and be able to handle collection of used containers (or partner with a firm that can handle both tasks).
Reusables also require buy-in from consumers in terms of an upfront or ongoing membership or in terms of changing habits, as many consumers are used to simply tossing their to-go containers. Still, as many households saw a flood of disposable carryout containers fill their garbage bins over the last year, more consumers might be primed to make a few sustainability shifts in their lives. According to the February-March edition of The Freedonia Group National Online Consumer Survey, 44% of respondents agreed that their household was putting more household waste out for garbage pickup since the start of the pandemic. What consumers notice, they are more likely to prioritize and address.
For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, particularly in the Packaging area, with titles such as Foodservice Single-Use Products, Global Foodservice, Global Foodservice Single-Use Products, and US Restaurant Reopening: COVID-19 Impact on Supplies. Additional analysis is available from the Food & Beverage research from our sister publisher Packaged Facts, including titles such as Food Carryout & Delivery. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.