Clamshells in Retail Food Packaging

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Packaging

This study examines the US market for clamshell packaging for food. A clamshell is a one-piece container consisting of two parts joined together by a hinge. Clamshells snap shut or have a tamper-indicating peel-off tab but are often also taped shut using a label from the manufacturer or retailer.

This study covers only 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, as are egg cartons.

For the purposes of this study, molded fiber refers to any fibrous material composed of waste paper or other natural fibers, including molded pulp and molded sugarcane.

Clamshells for food are generally made of rigid plastic but may also be made of paperboard, molded pulp, or molded sugarcane. Clamshells are used to package:

  • 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

With fresh produce, clamshells frequently have holes for ventilation and drainage.

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.

Historical data (2010, 2015, and 2020) and forecasts for 2025 and 2030 are presented for demand for clamshell packaging by value in current dollars (including inflation); demand data by market is presented in current dollars. “Demand” (or sales) is defined as all shipments from US plants, plus imports minus exports.

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