Packaging trends for 2020

Take a £21bn food-to-go market (FTG), a thriving £8.4bn home delivery sector, add to it a £4.5bn in branded coffee shop sales and a £3.9bn chilled ready meal sector and it’s fair to say that the food and drink market has been experiencing rapid transformation in recent times. Here Andrew Shepherd, sales director at Huhtamaki Foodservice, reviews the key areas impacting on the burgeoning food and drink packaging market.

“We’re seeing rapid change in the area of hot FTG, with a significant focus on fibre-based packaging as a sustainable alternative to plastic packaging. Retailers, manufacturers and brands are responding to consumer needs and our role is to ensure that we are creating and evolving our packaging to contribute to this continued growth.”

From breakfast to dinner and beyond

Where once, the ‘lunchtime meal deal’ was synonymous with FTG, now, retailers, quick service restaurant (QSR) and FTG specialists are wise to the opportunities across the different dayparts.  Breakfast bowls are collected with a morning coffee, and dinner, particularly streetfood, also makes up a significant chunk of this eating on-the-go sector. Travel hubs and any high-footfall areas are also prime for FTG.

IGD Retail Analysts suggest health and wellbeing is one of the biggest trends driving FTG at the moment, with salads, sushi, fruit and protein boosted foods attracting a breakfast and lunch time crew. Paper food containers are a sustainable packaging choice for FTG, whether for porridge, yoghurt, salads, soups, noodles or pasta and with a vast range of sizes and custom printing available, they offer choice in branding FTG whilst ensuring that food is protected.

Delivered to the door

Driving the food delivery market, are easy-to-use apps. Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eat are examples of the operators excelling in this area. FTG operators, casual dining restaurants and retailers are clamouring to work with these mobile delivery services and to grab their share of this £8.4bn sector that’s growing at a phenomenal rate. Many of these deliveries happen by bike so from a packaging point of view, it’s crucial that food is kept warm and well protected so it arrives in perfect condition. It must be leak proof and even suitable for re-heating at home in some instances.


Convenience is still the watchword for FTG, but changing the game are the savvy FTG specialists who already have what the food consumers want, but not always the retail space in high traffic areas. Yo!Sushi and the Co-Op are the latest to join forces – now fans can get their sushi hit from the Co-op’s high street stores.  Speed, ease, convenience and quality are key in this area and the packaging that goes around the products is crucial. Food may need to be kept hot or protected for longer as many customers buy food for now and food for later. Huhtamaki introduced the concept of Taste to the UK market – fluted sandwich packs, ovenable trays and hot boxes that can be used within a hot environment, whether that be cooking the food direct in the pack or holding in a heating cabinet. These packs can withstand up to 220˚C for up to 30 minutes and it’s this type of innovation that allows retailers to extend their FTG offerings to customers.

Capturing chilled meals

The impact of recipe boxes and home delivery has definitely been felt in the area of ready meals or fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) and the companies who thrive in this area are those who prioritise fewer processed options and more fresh food, quality and a leading approach to packaging.

For instance, Huhtamaki Fresh is a fibre-based, natural solution to ready meal packaging, developed with the support from the EU’s Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking programme for research and innovation. Oven and microwave safe, the trays can be recycled, and they also have a certificate for home composting and are an alternative to black plastic trays.

UK manufacturing

With a vibrant food and drink sector across foodservice, retail and home delivery, there are many packaging opportunities, and innovation in this area is vital to the continued success of the industry. Local sourcing is also important to support the local economy.

Andrew concludes: “One of our key areas of focus at the moment is on developing more environmentally beneficial materials and coatings, and our teams are creating some excellent new ideas in this space. Our UK manufacturing sites are working with the teams here to develop bespoke solutions and this means that the UK economy is further benefitting from the boom in the food and drink sectors.”