The food & beverage industry has experienced considerable changes over the past couple of decades. The rapidly changing consumer trends coupled with regulatory developments pertaining to various aspects of the industry have primarily shaped the modern-day food & beverages sector. Over the past decade, one of the most buzzing areas within the industry is packaging. The adoption of plastic ready meal trays has witnessed a gradual rise, particularly in the first half of the last decade. At present, despite consistent growth in the demand for plastic ready meal trays over the past few years, the overall prospects of the market point toward bleak and uncertain times due to growing focus on environment sustainability.
At present, the adoption of plastic ready meal trays is on the rise, owing to the rising demand for on-the-go and ready-to-eat food products, particularly in the urban regions. In addition, the overall growth of the online food delivery ecosystem around the world has also played a key role in increasing the demand for plastic ready meal trays. In addition, as consumers continue to seek convenient to-carry packaging solutions, the demand for plastic ready meal trays is projected to remain steady. However, the increasing pressure from regulatory bodies due to the disposal and recycling challenges put forward by black CPET trays could dent the growth of the global plastic ready meal trays market during the forecast period.
These factors coupled with growing emphasis on improving the presentation of plastic ready meal trays are likely to shape the growth trajectory of the global plastic ready meal trays market that is expected to attain a market value of ~US$ 700 Mn by the end of 2028.
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Environment-friendly Alternatives to Replace Non-recyclable Plastic Ready Meal Trays
Although by theory black CPET plastic ready meal trays are recyclable, in several regions of the world, sorting machines at the recyclable plant that primarily use near-infrared light to detect different colors lack the capability of detecting black plastic ready meal trays. Due to this, these trays are dumped into landfills. Manufacturers operating in the current plastic ready meal trays landscape are increasingly spending resources to tackle the challenges put forward by black plastic recycling.
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As the quest for alternative packaging solutions intensifies, the demand for plastic ready meal trays of different colors is on the rise. In the current scenario, multi-colored or transparent plastic ready meal trays are in vogue and the trend is expected to continue over the forecast period. In addition, players operating in the plastic ready meal trays market landscape are also expected to focus on rolling out alternative solutions that are microwaveable and over proof. The growing demand for environment-friendly and sustainable packaging solutions is expected to accelerate innovations over the next few years.
Adoption of CPET Black Plastic Trays Likely to Decline, Fiber and Plant-based Alternatives to Gain Traction
Crystalline polyethylene terephthalate (CPET) black plastic trays are a viable alternative to aluminum trays. In addition, CPET trays are versatile and are largely used for ready meals. Despite offering several advantages, including versatility, durability, and convenience, the demand for CPET black plastic ready meal trays is likely to decline over the course of the forecast period. The growing demand for environment-friendly solutions and consistent pressure to explore the potential of fiber and plant-based alternatives is expected to hinder the overall growth of the plastic ready meal trays market.
Several small-medium sized companies operating in the plastic ready meal trays value chain are investing resources to improve the production quality and the overall environment sustainability quotient to comply with regulatory standards. In addition, as supermarkets, retailers, and food brands are increasingly being pressurized to minimize plastic packaging, ready meal trays made from plastic are likely to lose popularity. The ongoing pressure from the government as well as consumers has increased the demand for cost-efficiency plastic-free food packaging. Plant and fiber-based ready meal trays are likely to gain considerable traction. Apart from large-scale companies gradually shifting from plastic to other alternatives, a host of startups have entered the fray due to which, the plastic ready meal trays market is likely to witness sluggish growth toward the second half of the forecast period.
Demand for Online Food Delivery Platforms Grows amid COVID-19 Pandemic
Although consumers are increasingly becoming conscious of the overall hygiene levels, the demand for online food delivery platforms across the globe is expected to have a positive outlook during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic due to which, the demand for plastic ready meal trays is projected to increase. However, the demand for plastic ready meal trays is likely to remain lower than initial projections as restaurants in several regions of the world remain shut due to lockdown and restrictions on movement. Market participants should focus on product diversification and explore the potential of alternative materials as a packaging solution. Despite treading through the COVID-19 event at a steady pace, the plastic ready meal trays market is expected to witness the entry of alternative solutions, including transparent or multi-colored ready meal trays.
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