Companies’ ambitious sustainable packaging goals are spurring endless big ideas, analysis and predictions. It will be interesting to see what sticks.

In one new report, shoppers pushed back on plastic waste for produce packaging while recognizing that environmental impact must be balanced with a container’s ability to do its job to protect food, extend shelf life and provide information.

The “2020 Power of Produce” report from FMI, the Food Industry Association, notes that plastic packaging is a complicated issue. “Many retailers and suppliers have already committed to reducing plastic waste and are making progress, but there are so many competing concerns that it will take store leadership and consumer willingness to experiment before we find the right mix of solutions,” says Rick Stein, FMI vice president, fresh, industry relations.

At the same time, the market intelligence experts at Mintel predict two 2020 packaging trends that address the innovation needed to meet sustainability goals.

Let’s take a closer look at the findings.

Mintel says two factors will impact the global packaging market this year:

  • Ahead of the recycling curve: Packaging makers and brands must keep commercializing recyclable options even if the capabilities to recycle them do not yet exist.
  • In-store refill: Independent packaging-free stores are growing rapidly, driving other retailers to consider how to create “simple, branded and engaging refill opportunities in-store.”

For “Power of Produce,” shoppers gave mixed results on what matters most for fresh produce packaging: 

  • 35% report that minimizing environmental impact of packaging wastes is most important
  • 34% say functionality should be balanced with environmental impact
  • 31% stress package functionality is most important

When is produce packaging OK?

  • 72% say plastic packaging for prepared fresh produce, such as precut fruits and vegetables, is important to them
  • 54% of shoppers approve of plastic packaging for food safety

How should packaging change?

  • 42% say companies should avoid plastic foam trays (the most popular solution)
  • 41% want biodegradable packaging offerings
  • 39% say they are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly packages  

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