Food packaging trends 2021 RelyGreen Blog

Food Packaging Trends 2021

By Joshua Martyn

With the pandemic ushering-in robust challenges to the availability, procurement, and use of food packaging materials. Let’s look at the shifts that determine what’s in store for us in the near future.

Throughout the past year, restaurants, bars, and nightlife have been hit hard due to the nature of restrictions posed by a global lockdown.

With the dining-in experience temporarily shelved, most businesses were forced to opt for takeaway and delivery to keep themselves afloat.

While this was a silver lining, the challenges vastly did outrun the gains. For one, the coronavirus crisis aroused a renewed vigor amongst customers for safe, sanitized, and sustainable food packaging, and next was the challenge to obtain high volumes of eco-friendly food packaging under increased demand and severe supply limitations.

As we optimistically look forward to turning the pages to a tumultuous chapter. We spill the beans on innovative packaging ideas that best served the industry and can potentially stick around post the pandemic.

Package to a Circular Economy:

With environmental consciousness rising globally, there is a strong pivot from the take-make-waste food packaging module usually associated with the use-and-throw plastic packaging, to sustainable packaging alternatives.

Now more than ever, we need to rethink the use of plastic, given that trends indicate that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish (by weight) by 2050.

Packaging for a circular economy brings to the fore a system in which all packaging should be designed for reuse, recycling, or composting. Thus, making sure that from the outset of production that food packaging products are designed to be biodegradable, ensure no toxins are leaked, and the maximum use is achieved while making sure that the recycled material keeps circulating in the economy.

The translucent PLA takeaway Box or container (a bioplastic made from corn starch), can be the ideal eco-friendly alternative for packing your deli takeaway, but also conforms to the circular economy principle of being recyclable and compostable.

Ensure that there is no going back to Plastic:

Plastic takeaway made a momentary comeback due to the disruption in the supply chain caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. For instance, the UK government postponed the ban on single-use plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton buds till October 2020 – allowing businesses to temporarily procure or use plastic products due to the lack of alternatives to sustainable packaging available in the local market.

Much to the dismay of activists and an increasing environmentally-conscious consumer base, the move lacked support and now puts the onus on government agencies and manufacturers to take steps to reinforce their commitment to environmental sustainability.

On the bright side, we have companies like Coca-Cola making commitments to phase-out the manufacturing of plastic bottles and may in turn look at paper-based bottles.

Keep the heat on food delivery:

One of the main challenges for takeout or delivery food packaging is to ensure that there not only is adequate heat retention but a venting system that allows fried or crispy food to maintain its texture long after it is sealed.

The development and use of heat resistant corrugated cardboard and other paperboard food containers which have heat retention properties and beneficial properties like leak or grease resistance… gives customers the heat insulation properties to maintain food quality and freshness after delivery.

Protecting Grab-and-go Protective Packaging:

The viral spread has raised concern over the risks related to the transmission of the virus from food packaging – making us more conscious about the sanitation and safety of takeout food packaging.

Sustainable packaging in the near future will have to take into consideration the need to include protective packaging elements like tamperproof seals, airtight covers and lids, while also making sure that customers spend no to minimal time at stores or dining venues – making them opt for grab-to-go meals.

With this in mind, restaurants and stores should make sure that their packaging consists of clear, eco-friendly labels and design elements to accelerate the customer’s decision-making process that would limit their stay at their premises.


Amongst the most novel industries which had a great humanitarian impact in providing for our essential needs. The Packaging industry displayed resilience and innovation to navigate through the pandemic with ideas that will long linger post the pandemic.

Just like a century ago, when the Spanish flu served as a catalyst to transforming our medical system.

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