According to a recently released report by The Freedonia Group, demand for foodservice packaging in the U.S. is forecast to climb 2.3% per year to nearly $8 billion in 2014. Rising disposable income-a benefit of the recovering economy-will drive this growth, as will expanding foodservice revenues as consumers continue to favor convenient, ready-to-eat foods over meals prepared at home.

Freedonia's report, titled "Foodservice Packaging: Bulk & Portion Control," forecasts that flexible packaging demand will outpace that of rigid packaging, expanding nearly 3% year over year to $3.6 billion in 2014. These gains will be bolstered by flexible packaging's inherent cost, convenience, production and performance advantages over rigid containers. In addition, Freedonia predicts the foodservice industry will continue to look to flexible packaging as an answer to sustainability and environmental challenges. To that end, the report points out that pouches will post the fastest gains of all flexible foodservice packaging types, with growth often coming at the expense of metal cans. Bags and sacks will remain the dominant flexible packaging format in foodservice uses.

Fruits and vegetables; meat, poultry, seafood and eggs; and baked goods were the three leading applications for foodservice packaging in 2009, together accounting for more than 60% of demand. Through 2014, foodservice packaging used in specialty processed food applications will register the most rapid gains based on the increasing importance of pre-made food items that can speed food preparation, reduce labor costs and give the appearance of being made from scratch.