Demand for ready-to-eat (RTE) produce was already on the rise prior to the COVID-19 pandemic due to its enhanced convenience over standard options, which users must wash or cut themselves. However, with more people cooking at home more often than they were in 2019, demand for these often premium retail products spiked among consumers in 2020, bolstering demand for the value-added packaging typically employed in RTE applications, such as plastic containers and pouches.
Going forward, packaging demand for RTE fresh vegetables and salad mixes will be supported by rising demand for these convenience items (including steamable vegetables in value-added stand-up pouches), as well as the higher intensity of packaging demand per RTE product compared to other types.
US Demand for Fresh Vegetable & Salad Packaging to Grow 3.5% Annually Through 2024
Increasing sales of RTE salads as well as of pre-cut produce such as apple slices, melon spears, and carrot sticks – typically sold in tubs, cups, or other rigid plastic containers – will remain a key driver of growth in the $3.5 billion market for fresh vegetable and salad packaging through 2024, according to a new Freedonia Group analysis. Sales gains will also be driven by:
- rising demand for produce sold in some form of packaging, including pouches, bags, and rigid plastic containers
- more intensive use of higher value packaging that has convenience and ease-of-use features (e.g., retail-ready boxes, steamable stand-up pouches), superior performance and shelf life (e.g., modified atmosphere packaging), and/or improved environmental footprints
Nonetheless, stronger increases will be limited by relatively slow growth in overall domestic produce output, with declines projected for a number of key fruit and vegetable types, notably tomatoes.
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This study analyzes the US market for fresh vegetable and salad packaging (i.e., fresh, minimally processed vegetables, as well as salad mixes and fresh-cut vegetables). Historical data (2009, 2014, and 2019) and forecasts for 2024 are presented for produce packaging demand in current US dollars (including inflation) by product and application.
Demand is also discussed by four material categories – plastic, paper and paperboard, molded pulp, and other materials (e.g., cotton mesh, foil wrap, plastic mesh, wood, textiles).
Specific products covered include the following:
- retail-ready and other corrugated boxes (regular slotted containers, full telescoping boxes, boxes with cut-outs for display purposes, open-top tray-style boxes, fold-over gift boxes, bulk bins)
- bags, including bag liners (e.g., plastic mesh, paper, textile)
- plastic containers (clamshells, tubs, cups, bowls, square &and rectangular two-piece containers, and pails, domed containers, lidded buckets)
- pouches (pillow and stand-up)
- trays and platters (including molded pulp, rigid plastic, expanded polystyrene foam, and paperboard types)
- other packaging (e.g., baskets, punnets, and tills; reusable plastic containers; plastic film; foam boxes; wood crates; folding cartons; sleeves; etc.)
For products packaged in combination-type 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.
Fresh vegetable and salad packaging demand is also discussed by application:
- other vegetables (e.g., asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, kale, spinach, squash, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, yams, zucchini)
Furthermore, demand is examined by format: ready-to-eat and all other formats.