Demand for produce packaging is projected to reach $4.8 billion in 2014, fueled by a rebound in fresh produce production and growth in consumer spending as the U.S. economy recovers from the recession that began in December 2007. Packaging demand will be further aided by preferences among retailers for display-ready packaging that holds down labor costs and a favorable outlook for fresh-cut, ready-to-eat produce, which offers convenience and tends to use more value-added packaging than bulk produce.

On the flexible materials side, bag and liner demand are expected to increase at a slightly below-average pace as a result of the increasing maturity of the salad market, competition from plastic containers, and marginal growth for paper and textile bags.

Faster advances for plastic bags will be fueled by growth in the variety of fresh-cut offerings, greater use of resealable and easy opening bags, and requirements for value-added modified atmosphere packaging films offering extended shelf life for ready-to-eat produce.

In nonflexible formats, corrugated boxes will remain the leading produce packaging type through 2014 and beyond. Box demand is projected to increase below the industry average based on more moderate box price increases than in the 2004-2009 period, the maturity of most applications and competition from reusable plastic containers (RPCs).

Plastic containers will experience the fastest gains among major produce packaging types, propelled by continued favorable growth in berry production and expanding applications for clamshells and other plastic containers with whole and fresh-cut produce, both for retail and foodservice applications.

Smaller segments such as RPCs and temperature monitoring and traceability systems are expected to experience solid increases.

The report, Produce Packaging to 2014, was published in June by the Freedonia Group.