The impact of COVID-19 has been quite apparent in the global supply chain. This change has been particularly radical in the food packaging industry.
In March 2020, organizations around the world started realizing the seriousness of the matter caused by the spread of the virus. Every channel broadcasted the news about coronavirus round the clock. This entire situation made those organizations realize the need to bring some drastic changes in food packaging.
Certain businesses and organizations such as K-12 schools, universities, and dining establishments started looking for ways to stay in business. Since the dine-in option was completely banned across the United States, many food chains and businesses started offering takeaway options. Students from abroad had to stay in universities, so the food takeaway option was better suited for them in such conditions.
Another shift was in the form of the work-from-home revolution, which resulted in many people opting for their preferred places to work. It allowed most businesses to continue operating, but the profitability for employees who were not able to leave for their homes was badly affected.
Up until mid-May 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that all non-porous food containers put users at risk. These materials and surfaces included tabletops, glass, thin-walled containers, straws, and drink cups.
Budget woes caused by supply changes
The pandemic resulted in an increased demand for thin-walled containers, cutlery, and other food packaging materials. There was also a higher food safety risk associated with the use of most of the cutlery items. With cheaper alternatives being the only option available, there was an increased likelihood of plastic breaking off into the food.
At this point, it was impossible to pay attention to packaging sustainability. Buyers had to revert to buying expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam as it was one of a few budget-friendly options available.
There was a widespread problem related to form, fit, and function at the stakeholders’ downstream. It was impossible to fit the lids over old cups. The materials sourced and purchased included crystallized polyethylene terephthalate (CPET), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), amorphous polyethylene terephthalate (APET), EPS, and oriented polystyrene (OPS). What’s worse was that such purchases were made without the approval of stakeholders who had to look at the food quality and weigh the entire packaging process.
The effect on food packaging in the future
The future food packaging market will see an increase in the use of thermal packaging containers by 3% or 4% to 7% or 8%. The market increase will be triggered by rising demands for Ready-To-Eat (RTE), Ready-To-Heat (RTH), and other grab-and-go packaging materials. The market figures will double between 2021 and 2025. EPS, on the other hand, will continue to offer a low-cost food packaging alternative for cost-conscious food packaging firms and restaurants. However, a ban on such materials will change the entire scenario.
As of now, companies have allocated funds for PPE and packaging purchases as the pandemic is still not over. The vaccination distribution plans are being rolled out, and it is uncertain when a majority of the world population will be immunized.
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