This study analyzes the market for frozen food tubs, cups, and bowls. Historical (2009, 2014 and 2019) data and forecasts to 2024 are presented in current dollars
Also excluded are separately sold lids, caps, and closures as well as rigid plastic pails.
Tubs and cups account for the largest portion of sales, due to their widespread use in ice cream applications. Paperboard tubs and cups, especially square-round types, have largely supplanted square “brick” cartons and tall round paperboard tubs in the packaging of consumer ice cream products due to advantages of better freshness protection and easier scooping.
Bowls comprise a smaller – though quickly expanding – share of sales due to the growing popularity of frozen bowl meals. However, competition from trays remains strong in some frozen meal applications, as bowls are generally less conducive to compartmentalization without additional packaging.
Plastic is expected to eclipse paper as the leading material for tubs, cups, and bowls in frozen food packaging by 2024, when it will account for 51% of sales. Demand for plastic types will be driven by such advantages as:
Nonetheless, paperboard will continue to see widespread use in ice cream applications due to its low cost and good environmental image. Paperboard will also remain the material of choice for large tubs of ice cream sold for foodservice applications due to its light weight and cost advantages.
Additionally, product development has led to adoption of paperboard tubs and cups that do not need plastic coatings, which traditionally provide moisture resistance but prevent the paperboard from being recycled or degrading. For instance:
Molded pulp is projected to see expanding use by food suppliers interested in more sustainable packaging options.
Given the highly competitive nature of the food packaging industry, pricing plays a crucial role in the success or failure of a given container type as a packaging choice:
Price competition in frozen food packaging is intense, both between different materials and between vendors of comparable products, because many of these packaging types are low technology, commodities. Pricing advantages for one packaging material over another tend to fluctuate depending on economic conditions, raw material costs, excess capacity, or price discounting.