Demand for foodservice disposables – e.g., single-use boxes, cartons, clamshells, cups – is forecast to total $24.4 billion in 2023, driven in part by the popularity of meal-delivery apps like DoorDash, Seamless, and Uber Eats. These firms have had an especially significant impact on full service and fast casual restaurants, which have seen large increases in the number of to-go orders they receive – and the amount of foodservice disposables they need to pack them.
The problem? This surge in takeout activity means substantially more plastic waste, a key target of single-use plastics bans and other environmental initiatives across the country.
Sustainability efforts driving shift in product material mix
Although plastic is expected to remain the most popular single-use foodservice product material through 2023, recent bans of expanded polystyrene (EPS) single-use products in large markets like New York City and the state of Maine as well as other sustainability efforts will cause the material’s share of the foodservice disposables market to decline:
- Foam products including EPS types will see the biggest losses because they are more difficult to recycle and have fewer performance benefits compared to rigid containers.
- Paper and paperboard are expected to gain share at plastic’s expense due to growing consumer preferences for more eco-friendly bio-based materials.
- Alternative materials such as bagasse and bioplastics will see rapid gains in demand from niche levels, fueled by sustainability-fueled trends away from single-use plastics.
Solving the single-use plastic waste problem
Some foodservice businesses are attempting to take on the plastic waste problem through partnerships and in-house programs that enable or increase use of reusable products. However, a number of manufacturers of foodservice disposables are looking to meet increasing demand for non-plastic and more sustainable products via innovation.
For example, some plastic products, particularly to-go containers and cups, feature superior performance characteristics, such as leak-resistant seals and see-through clarity, that make them difficult to replace without loss of performance. Still, innovations in paper and fiber-based items will allow greater inroads, particularly in clamshells and sippable lids.
Want to learn more?
Foodservice Single-Use Products is now available from The Freedonia Group. This study examines the US market for foodservice single-use disposables by product, market, and material, and provides a comprehensive corporate analysis, including market share, competitive strategies and mergers and acquisitions.