The molded fiber segment of the US foodservice disposables market is on a strong growth trajectory driven by sustainability efforts, technological advancements, and enduring market trends. Projections indicate an 11% annual increase, bringing the market to $1.8 billion by 2027. This growth is fueled by molded fiber's eco-friendly reputation, advancements in coatings and additives, and ongoing cost reduction in production methods, especially when using alternative fibers.
The demand for single use molded fiber foodservice products is closely tied to the broader trends in foodservice revenue, which reflect how often people dine out, how often they order to-go or delivery meals and snacks, and how much they spend on these meals. Sales outlook for molded fiber products also related to trends in foodservice packaging, from to-go and delivery habits to types of food being packaged. Sustainability initiatives and consumer preferences play into competitive trends between molded fiber foodservice single use packaging and versions made from plastic, foam, paper, or other materials.
Innovations in coatings and additives are expanding the market potential for molded fiber applications, with many of them making these products better able to handle high-temperature and oily foods. While still a more costly option compared to competitive foodservice single use products, progress in manufacturing and tooling processes is steadily chipping away at the production costs of molded fiber packaging, particularly when sourced from alternative fiber materials, such as bamboo.
Opportunities exist in areas that play to the advantages of molded fiber foodservice disposables:
Use of quickly renewable materials such as bamboo, wheat straw, wood pulp, and bagasse.
Ability to be made into complex shapes without additional production costs.
Flexible use as molded fiber packaging can be used in freezers and microwaves.
Amenability to forms such as clamshells and bowls where once dominant expanded polystyrene is challenged by regulatory changes.
Opportunities also exist in the development of innovations that will overcome existing challenges:
Molded fiber foodservice products require a lining to prevent wet foods from making the packaging soggy or flimsy or otherwise soaking through. However, that lining or coating can make the packaging incompatible with available composting or recycling infrastructure
Molded fiber packaging can collect condensation on the inside when containing hot foods, resulting in soggy food
Some molded fiber food disposables contain PFAS, which is subject to increasing regulation and poor consumer perceptions.
Molded fiber versions are expensive, especially compared to single-use packaging made with expanded polystyrene
According to a Freedonia Group study, both foodservice operators and diners are increasingly mindful of materials being used for foodservice disposables. As trends shift away from single use plastics and expanded polystyrene, molded fiber will continue to function as a possible substitute due to advantages in sustainability and perceived higher quality, despite its higher cost.
To learn more about these companies and their progress, and the industry as a whole, check out Freedonia Group’s report, US Molded Fiber Foodservice Disposables. To learn more about how molded fiber versions compete against foodservice single-use products made from other materials and to learn about the larger market for foodservice disposables, see Freedonia Group’s report, US Foodservice Single-Use Products. To see other opportunities for molded fiber packaging, see US Molded Fiber Packaging.