Plastic produce container sales set to outpace other major packaging categories
U.S sales of fresh produce packaging are expected to grow 3.7 percent annually over the coming years in tandem with rising plastic container sales, according to a new report.
A Freedonia Group analysis projected the future sales increase to nearly $7 billion in 2024 as demand continues to rise among both consumers and foodservice establishments for produce sold in some form of packaging – including pouches, bags, and rigid plastic containers.
Among the key drivers of growth will be increasing sales of ready-to-eat (RTE) salads, as well as pre-cut produce such as apple slices, melon spears, and carrot sticks – which are typically sold in clamshells, cups, and other plastic containers.
Sales of these and other prepackaged fresh produce have soared during the pandemic due to several factors. One of these is surging grocery sales – including more packaging-intensive online grocery orders – as consumers began eating out far less and cooking way more.
The sales have also been driven by increased concerns about the safety of loose bulk-bin items that have been handled by others in stores.
Additionally, there is rising demand for convenience foods, including RTE produce, which require minimal or no prep before consumption, unlike their unpackaged counterparts, which often need to be washed, peeled, and/or chopped.
The report also found that sales of plastic containers increased 5 percent in 2020, the biggest gain of the main produce packaging types – boosted by their intensive use with RTE produce.
The sharp increase recorded in organic produce sales further bolstered plastic container demand, as these premium brands tend to employ value-added rigid packaging for product differentiation purposes, whereas non-organic brands tend to employ bags or pillow pouches due to their lower cost.
Through 2024, sales of plastic containers are expected to outpace those for all other major packaging categories, as clamshells and other plastic containers continue to supplant commodity bags and pillow pouches due to their good protective and display properties.