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    Foodservice Packaging Industry Optimism Dampened by Economy

    Just under half of North American foodservice operators expect sales to be better this year.

    FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- Manufacturers of single-use foodservice packaging in North America are cautiously optimistic about the industry, according to the Foodservice Packaging Institute’s (FPI) annual survey released Friday. The percentage of those who remain optimistic is encouraging, although the number is lower than recent years.

    The survey, which collects information and opinions from foodservice packaging manufacturers and suppliers in North America and Europe, found 42 percent of manufacturers expect sales volumes to be better this year than last. This is down from 73 percent in 2008. The survey also found 58 percent of North American respondents expect profits to be better than last year; down from 72 percent last year.

    Despite the challenges in the face of a global economic recession, respondents reported they believe quick-service restaurants will see strong growth in single-use packaging usage in the next five years, followed by grocery delis.

    "I think what this year’s industry survey shows is that single-use foodservice packaging is somewhat recession-resistant," said John Burke, president of FPI. "While people may not be eating out as often at some restaurant venues, they continue frequent venues where significant amounts of single-use packaging are used for takeout and take-home dining."

    The industry’s customers are more optimistic this year than they were in 2008. According to a similar survey sent to North American foodservice operators, just under half said they expect sales to be better this year. This is an increase from 2008 when only one third of respondents indicated they expected sales to be better.

    Of particular interest to the foodservice packaging industry is 25 percent of the commercial operators responding to the survey indicated takeout (drive-thru or carryout) accounts for half of their foodservice sales. The majority of these operators foresee takeout sales continuing to maintain the same level of sales this year as they did last year.

    The FPI survey also revealed that the foodservice packaging industry and its customers see some challenges ahead with seven common issues that ranked in the top 10 for the European and North American foodservice packaging industry respondents:

    -- Global economic recession;
    -- Margin compensation;
    -- Government regulations;
    -- Globalization and the increased competition from outside national boarders;
    -- Increasing raw material costs;
    -- Tightening credit market; and
    -- Public perception of packaging or foodservice packaging as "waste."

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