What you need to know

In addition to playing a functional role, packaging serves as a vital communication platform for engaging consumers in-store or online. It can entice shoppers while also relaying a range of practical information (nutrition, health benefits, preparation). Packaging’s role in food safety, storage and freshness was thrust into the spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic, as at-home food consumption soared. The pandemic also changed shopping habits, leading to a growth in use of online retailers to order groceries for delivery or pickup. Emerging from the pandemic, there are new opportunities for packaging to continue to respond to evolving consumer needs, interests and shopping habits, including embracing new technologies and meeting the environmentally friendly desires.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • How food packaging has responded to and been shaped by COVID-19

  • The impact of ecommerce on food packaging

  • Food packaging formats, including consumer attitudes and perceptions

  • Packaging trends related to format, size, materials and diverse claims

  • The importance of environmental responsibility in food packaging

This Report builds off of Food Packaging Trends – US, July 2020 was written in May 2021.


For the purposes of this Report, Mintel will cover trends in food packaging, including all packaging types commonly used for shelf-stable, refrigerated and frozen food items. In addition, food labeling and claims are discussed, particularly as they relate to themes applicable to the Report.

Market context

Economic and other assumptions

Mintel bases its expectations for economic growth on projections provided by the CBO, the FOMC, the Conference Board and other public sources. Consensus estimates forecast US GDP to increase by 6.5% in 2021. Unemployment has been forecast to decline to as low as 4.1% by the end of 2021 with an average of 5.7% for the year.

COVID-19: US context

The first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the US in January 2020. It was declared a global health pandemic and national emergency in early March 2020. Across the US, various stay-at-home orders were put in place in Spring 2020, and nonessential businesses and school districts closed or shifted to remote operations. The remainder of 2020 saw rolling orders, as states and local governments relaxed and reinforced guidelines according to the spread of the virus in each region.

Vaccine distribution began in December 2020, and it is expected take anywhere from July to December 2021 for 70-90% of the population to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity. Mintel anticipates business operations in the US will remain in a state of flux through 2021 as vaccines are widely administered.

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