The Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI) recently published its 14th annual Trends Report, which pointed to convenience stores as a growth segment for food packaging as they continue to widen their foodservice offerings.
FPI noted that survey respondents are seeing growing interest in off-premises dining, including demand for drive-through and curbside pickup. Having the right type of packaging can help on-the-go foods better appeal to customers, preserve freshness, ensure safety and make sure food products hold up well during delivery or dashboard dining.
CStore Decisions spoke with Natha Dempsey, the president of FPI, to learn more about today’s foodservice packaging trends.
CStore Decisions (CSD): What are the top trends you see in on-the-go packaging for 2023 that might be relevant to convenience stores?
Natha Dempsey (ND): The top trends we continue to see in foodservice packaging are geared around safety and sanitation, ease of use and sustainability. Packaging types in the foodservice space are being designed to reflect these core needs.
CSD: The FPI report mentioned that more packaging items are multipurpose today. Why are we seeing this trend and how can c-stores incorporate multipurpose packaging? What are the benefits?
ND: I think this trend comes from foodservice operators asking for greater flexibility when it comes to their packaging. Being able to use one package vs. two or three can help save time, space and resources. Our industry is always innovating and looking to meet the needs of our customers. I would encourage c-stores to get creative. There are so many different types of foodservice packaging that can help promote a new product or help breathe new life into an old staple.
CSD: As more convenience stores move into delivery, what are some packaging considerations that should be on their radar?
ND: Safety and security are top of mind in the delivery space. Making sure items can’t be tampered with — we’ve all heard of the horror stories of delivery drivers helping themselves to some fries — and keeping items from spilling or leaking. Also, as delivery becomes more prevalent in the c-store space, packaging can be vital to the customer experience. Through both brand promotion and food quality, packaging becomes an essential piece of the puzzle.
CSD: I understand more chains today are moving toward offering compostable packaging and working to be more eco-friendly. How should c-stores be looking at this trend and what do they need to consider?
ND: One of the major factors to consider when selecting packaging with end of life in mind is availability of infrastructure. Foodservice packaging that is compostable or recyclable may have the infrastructure available in one locality, but not another. Foodservice packaging usually doesn’t stay where it is generated and is highly mobile, especially when it comes to the c-store space, when customers may be transient and want to be in and out as quickly as possible. Just because one city has recycling and/or composting doesn’t mean the next town over does.
In areas where recycling and/or composting are available, we’re seeing more recovery of foodservice packaging. We work to increase recycling/composting options through FPI’s recovery groups, which has made it possible for more foodservice packaging to be recycled in more communities than even five years ago.
CSD: How are supply chain issues and inflation impacting packaging today?
ND: We see a “do more with less” approach, which speaks to the demand for flexibility of foodservice packaging I mentioned earlier. While we don’t see the supply chain disruptions as we did early last year, inflation and costs have continued to increase, and our industry has been impacted just as everything else has.