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Huhtamaki 2020 Packaging Trends

Take a booming £21bn2 food-to-go market (FTG), a thriving £8.4bn1 home delivery sector, add to it a frothy £4.5bn4 in branded coffee shop sales and throw in a cool £3.9bn3 in chilled ready meals and it’s fair to say that the food and drink market is experiencing rapid transformation.

Andrew Shepherd, Sales Director at Huhtamaki Foodservice, Blackburn, interprets the needs of the food and drink packaging sector, tackles the rising trends, understands the sustainability challenge and delivers innovation to a very diverse industry.

Commenting on the factors affecting packaging trends for the industry and summarising these, alongside takeouts from the recent Packaging Innovations at the Birmingham NEC, Andrew 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’ synonymised FTG, now, retailers, 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 Analysts5 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 are a great way to brand FTG whilst ensuring that food is protected.

Delivered To The Door

Driving the food delivery market, with 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, to grab their share of this £8.4bn1 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 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 were the first to bring 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 2200C for up to 30 minutes and it’s this type of innovation that allows retailers to extend their FTG offerings to customers. Offering a bespoke service, Huhtamaki can create innovative, sustainable fibre packaging solutions to meet the needs of this sector. 

Capturing Chilled Meals

The impact of recipe boxes and home delivery has definitely been felt in the area of FMCG ready meals and the companies who are still winning in this area are those who prioritise less processed options and more fresh food, excellent quality and a leading approach to packaging.

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 program for research and innovation. It’s the world’s first fibre-based ready meal tray. Oven and microwave safe, the trays can be recycled, and they also have a certificate for home composting, they are a great alternative to black plastic trays.  Waitrose & Partners has moved their Italian range to the new tray, taking nearly 9 million meals out of black plastic.

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 really important and Huhtamaki manufacture their paper cups and food containers in the UK so choosing a supplier who is supporting the local economy is good for everyone!

Andrew concludes,

“What sets us apart is our team of experts who can create new and innovative packaging solutions whilst understanding the needs of the consumer, client and the environmental impact of packaging choices. 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 world class and working with the teams here to develop bespoke solutions means that the UK economy is further benefitting from the boom in the food and drink sectors.”

1Source: MCA Foodservice Delivery Market Report © 2019

2A Focus on Food To Go in Action: MCA HIM 2019

3Kantar 52 w/e 8 September 2019

4Source: Allegra Project Cafe UK 2020

5IGD Retail Analyst Food to Go Whitepaper

For more information on Huhtamaki products or how we can help you with a bespoke packaging project, please contact us on 02392 512434 or visit

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