CLEVELAND, Ohio — A new Freedonia Group analysis forecasts U.S. demand for plastic containers in fresh produce applications to rise 5% per year through 2024, outpacing all other commonly used types of produce packaging:
- Clamshells and other plastic containers continue to supplant commodity bags and pillow pouches due to their good protective and display properties, especially with ready-to-eat (RTE) foods such as salads and pre-cut/pre-sliced fruits and vegetables.
- As such, increasing sales of RTE salads and pre-cut produce such as apple slices, melon spears and carrot sticks among both consumers and foodservice establishments will boost demand for clamshells, tubs, cups and other rigid plastic containers.
Additionally, the analysis said, sales will be bolstered by rebounding berry production — the leading application for produce plastic containers — after the declines recorded during the 2014-2019 historical period. However, production declines in other key fruit and vegetable types, including the sizable tomato segment, will limit even stronger gains.
Growing Fresh Produce Applications for Plastic Containers
Among applications, according to the analysis, the strongest growth opportunities through 2024 are expected in lettuce and newer niche vegetables such as small or exotic potato varieties — which are increasingly packaged in clamshells rather than bags for aesthetics — while grapes, citrus and sliced apples will be the fastest growing fresh fruit applications.
Nevertheless, fresh berries will remain the leading application for plastic containers and account for the largest single share of produce plastic container demand gains through 2024, boosted by rebounding berry output, as well as by berries' reputation as being particularly nutritious superfoods.
Use of plastic containers is mature in the berry industry compared to other fresh produce applications, in large part due to the greater level of protection berries require during shipping due to their fragility. Rigid containers prevent berries from bruising and allow the fruit to be stacked on store displays.