Is Your Foodservice Packaging Good to Go?

Generic food packaging

All too often, foodservice packaging is an afterthought, made after the menu item has been developed and tested and is ready for rollout. But the effects of hastily chosen packaging can be broad, from a poor consumer experience to missed branding opportunities.

So we hopped on the phone with Lynn Dyer, president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI), Falls Church, Va., to find out how retailers can make better packaging decisions.

1. Plastics are getting more sophisticated …

Sheetz coffee cup

Two of the biggest packaging innovations of the past few years were the introduction of recycled content into polystyrene containers, as well as insulated polypropylene—which gives the plastic insulation levels similar to that of foam. Sheetz’s recent co­ffee-program revamp included the launch of a fully recyclable, BPA-free cup made out of No. 5 polypropylene.

2. … but mushrooms are getting in on the game, too.

Bagasse products

Some of the latest plant-based materials include bagasse, a fibrous byproduct of the extraction of juice from sugar cane, as well as sugar beet pulp, which is combined with a biodegradable polymer for a package that acts like soft polystyrene or polypropylene. Manufacturers are also working with straw, wheat and mushrooms to further expand sustainable packaging options.

3. Consumer trends directly affect packaging.

To go box

Snacking and better-for-you trends have influenced foodservice packaging. Compartmentalized boxes allow for customized meals or snacks while keeping items such as chips and salsa or hummus and veggies separate.

4. Use your container as a brand ambassador.

My Burger packaging

“We’re starting to see more operators recognize that their packaging ... can be used as an extension of their brand,” Dyer says.

5. Think of packaging in tandem with menu development.

Package design

Know what you need before approaching manufacturers.

6. Looking for packaging? Call Lynn.

Food packaging

“I had an operator call me ... and he said, ‘We just developed our next great item and we’re getting ready to go to market and realized: Holy crap, we don’t have packaging for this.’ ” Dyer sent his specs out to FPI’s supplier members—which reflect nearly 90% of the industry. “Within a few hours, they had multiple quotes.”

90 minutes

The amount of time an operator has to lower the temperature of prepared food safely, from above 135 degrees to below 41 degrees Fahrenheit