Food Packaging

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This study examines the US market for food packaging including both rigid and flexible packaging. The scope of this study differs from that of the prior Food Containers report in that all flexible packaging products are now included. This includes both primary and secondary packaging. Units are primarily in million US dollars.

Products covered in this report are broadly divided into flexible and rigid categories.

Rigid packaging includes types made of plastic, paper and paperboard, metal, and glass and comes in the following formats:

  • containers (including bottles, jars, jugs, cups, tubs, clamshells, two-piece containers, blister packs, canisters, egg cartons, pails, tubes)
  • boxes and cartons (including corrugated and paperboard boxes, folding cartons, set-up boxes, aseptic cartons, gable top cartons, foam boxes, metal boxes)
  • other rigid packaging (including trays, bowls, pans, sleeves, and other rigid packaging that does not fully contain the food product)

Flexible packaging includes:

  • pouches (e.g., pillow, stand-up, and side seal)
  • bags, sacks, and liners
  • wrap (including overwrap, shrink wrap, stretch wrap, and foil wrap)
  • other flexible packaging (including brick packs, chubs, lidding, interleaving, liners, skin packaging)

Both retail and commercial foodservice food packaging are included but bulk packaging for shipment to other food processors is excluded.

In addition, demand is segmented by material:

  • plastic (including bioplastics)
  • paper and paperboard
  • metal, primarily steel and aluminum
  • glass
  • small volume materials
    • molded wood pulp
    • mesh
    • wood
    • cellulose
    • textiles (including nonwovens)
    • sugarcane
    • bamboo
    • ceramic
    • wheat straw

Furthermore, demand can be segmented by food formats:

  • fresh/refrigerated
  • frozen
  • canned
  • dried/dehydrated

Data are also segmented by applications for packaging, which include:

  • meat, poultry, and seafood (excludes meat-alternative foods, such as plant-based hamburger patties)
    • meat (e.g., beef, veal, pork, lamb)
    • poultry (e.g., chicken, turkey, goose, duck)
    • seafood (all fish and shellfish)
  • fresh produce (e.g., vegetables, fruits, and salad)
  • prepared foods:
    • dinners
    • pasta and rice dishes
    • pizza
    • potato dishes
    • soups and stews
    • other prepared foods (entrées, prepared meats like fried chicken, prepared salads, sandwiches, appetizers, dips, sushi, puddings, and parfaits)
    • excluded from this category are basic cooking ingredients not combined with other foods and foods that require more preparation than heating or that require other ingredients to be added
  • dairy (e.g., cheese, ice cream, yogurt, butter, margarine, coffee creamer, sour cream)
  • baked goods (e.g., cookies, crackers, rolls, bagels, biscuits, tortillas, cakes, pies, doughnuts, pastries)
  • sauces, condiments, dressings, dips, jams, jellies, preserves
  • processed fruits and vegetables (including dry beans and legumes)
  • savory snacks (e.g., potato chips, corn/tortilla chips, pretzels, prepared popcorn, snack nuts, jerky)
  • candy and confections (e.g., chocolate and non-chocolate candy, chewing gum, snack bars, cough drops)
  • other foods
    • baby food, including formula
    • breakfast cereals
    • dried coffee and tea (excluding ready-to-drink products)
    • eggs
    • fats and oils: cooking oils, salad oils, lard, and shortening
    • frozen prepared breakfast foods such as sausage biscuits or waffles
    • grain products not mixed with other ingredients: flour, cornmeal, rice, pasta
    • meal replacements and protein powders
    • meat alternatives
    • pancake and waffle mixes
    • soft drink syrups and concentrates
    • spices and seasonings
    • sweeteners and syrups

For products packaged in combination formats – such as a tray of peppers enclosed in a pillow pouch – the value of each type of packaging is counted separately and included within each respective product segment.

Excluded from the scope of this report are the following:

  • bulk packaging such as shipping sacks, intermediate bulk containers, strapping, drums, bulk pails, and material handling containers
  • shipping and transit packaging, defined as packaging that does not touch the food itself and is used solely for the purposes of shipping or storage.
  • protective packaging
  • retail-ready packaging
  • in-store packaging used for self-service in produce, deli, and bakery departments
  • separately sold caps and closures
  • packaging accessories such as tags, tape, and labels
  • beverage packaging
  • pet food and animal feed packaging
  • single-use foodservice products such as cups, lids, dinnerware, utensils, napkins, pizza boxes, French fry cartons, doughnut boxes, and other containers and such used by restaurants or other non-retail foodservice establishments
  • unconverted materials sold to food manufacturers for captive packaging production (although the value of the finished packaging produced captively by end users does count)

Historical data (2010, 2015, and 2020) and forecasts for 2025 are presented for demand for food 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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