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Demand for Sustainable Packaging

During the pandemic, when all of us ordered more delivery than we’d care to admit, the demand for sustainable packaging continued to grow, especially among younger customers. So how are restaurants responding to this continued trend? And how are they finding ways to keep some of the benefits of plastic packaging?

The Numbers

The good news, at least for the planet, is that more and more consumers care about environmentally friendly packaging. According to the National Restaurant Association, 45% of customers consider it important to their purchasing decision.

Those numbers become even more impressive when you focus on younger customers, with 83% of consumers under the age of 44 reporting that they’re willing to pay more for sustainable packaging. With numbers like that, it’s clear that brands looking to ensure customer loyalty will want to look into sustainable packaging.

The Responses

In broad terms, famous brands are already investing heavily in sustainable packaging, with a wide variety of manufacturers experimenting with recycled materials. Recently, Nestlé even set aside $2.1 billion earmarked to research and develop greener alternatives.

New packaging materials and designs are helping some restaurants keep their deliveries fresh while staying green. Container lids made from balsa can provide tight fits for lids that make sure carryout isn’t a mess.

By far one of the most popular solutions when it comes to sustainable packaging is compostable, leak-proof cardboard liners—you’ve probably encountered one yourself. The treated cardboard means delivery doesn’t get messy, while also providing insulating benefits that maintain freshness.

While some of these new initiatives might come with an added cost for restaurants and consumers, the more popular and widespread these solutions become, the cheaper they’ll be. And with delivery trends remaining high this year, that’s pretty much inevitable.

Looking Ahead

Reusable containers are another new trend to keep an eye on. While it might seem counterintuitive when it comes to delivery, Zuni Cafe in San Francisco has seen success with this new method. They deliver food in stainless steel containers, and partner with a local company to collect, wash, and return the containers to the restaurant.

And don’t forget, it’s not all about sustainable packaging. Restaurants looking to appeal to younger consumers can invest in other green strategies, including setting up in-location recycling, simplifying packaging, and composting.


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