Foodservice Packaging: A Complicated Relationship

Around the world, a growing part of the population is saying that their relationship with foodservice packaging – like containers, wraps, trays, and tubs – is complicated. Indeed, people love the convenience of single-use foodservice containers. Any time we order take-away, fast food, and at a growing number of fast-casual restaurants, we use single-use containers. Worldwide, the foodservice packaging industry stands at about $53 billion in 2019, and analysts expect that number to double by 2025, reaching almost $91 billion nearly. We love the convenience of getting food quickly and going about our busy lives.

Foodservice packaging solves a serious problem

One of the primary benefits of foodservice packaging is sanitation. The first single-use foodservice container was a paper cup, invented in 1907 by Lawrence Luellen, a lawyer from Boston. As people moved into cities during industrialization, communicable diseases ran rampant through growing urban centers. Typhoid, diphtheria, cholera, and polio were common infections and killers. To give you an idea, in Indiana, a low population density state then and now, diphtheria killed 3,727 people in 1893 alone. That was more than 9-1/2 times the number of people who died from smallpox. In the cities, it could be even worse. The paper cup spawned a new industry – one that saved countless lives.

Another reason we like food packaging is that we believe it helps us prevent food waste. There’s an inherent value to food that we all appreciate. Even in times of plenty, the idea of throwing out perfectly good food is unacceptable to many. Unfortunately, it’s a tradeoff. A lot of food packaging, including foodservice packaging, is made of plastic. Single-use plastics contribute to our most significant source of municipal solid waste (MSW) – plastic.

Foodservice packaging causes some serious problems, too

Food waste isn’t far behind plastic in the MSW charts. Food, though, is organic and biodegrades. Many communities around the world have started municipal composting efforts, separating food waste from the rest of the MSW stream. These in-home sortation efforts echo glass, metal, and plastic recycling efforts.  

Awareness among consumers is growing. The Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI), over the past five years, has shown that the public believes that foodservice packaging is waste.  This perception is backed up by search trend data from Google. Over the past ten years, searches for the term “single-use plastic” has grown exponentially. People are concerned about the environment and are interested in how their choices impact their world.

Consumers want the good without the bad

Public perception is one challenge among many in the foodservice packaging landscape. As FPI noted in both their press releases, consolidation through mergers and acquisitions, rising labor costs with fewer available workers, price pressure from buyers, and increasing raw material costs are affecting the industry year in and year out. These concerns exist across the foodservice industry. Restauranteurs face rising operating and food costs and new minimum wage laws while dealing with a more competitive landscape than ever before.

At Greif LA Paperbox, we work to help our customers do better for their customers and the environment every day. Restaurants’ foodservice packaging choices communicate their values to their diners. Their customers are looking for better quality, healthier, more environmentally conscious choices. Fast food, take-out, and fast-casual food require single-use foodservice packaging. Choosing paperboard single-use foodservice containers from LA Paperbox lets you show off high-quality, healthy food with a clear environmental message.

To find out more about LA Paperbox, get in touch with us. We’re always happy to talk.