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A Look Back as FPI Celebrates 80 Years

Welcome to FPI’s inaugural blog post. Here, we’ll share our perspective on industry news, insights and trends, update you on our activities to promote the responsible use of foodservice packaging, and even have guest bloggers from time to time.


That’s our plan for the future, but before we proceed, let’s take a look back as FPI celebrates its 80th anniversary.


It all started in 1933 when three small cup manufacturers gathered in New York City to establish the “Cup & Container Institute,” which was sanctioned by an Act of Congress “for cooperative activities in the development and improvement of the paper cup industry.” The 1930s were good for the industry, with double digit sales increases, as well as the association, where membership grew to nine companies.


For the next two decades, the industry continued its growth, with new markets for paper foodservice packaging, like supporting American troops overseas and protecting the rapidly growing numbers of children in schools, thanks to the Baby Boom. The Paper Cup & Container Institute (PCCI), as it was now called, focused its efforts on touting the sanitary benefits of single-use foodservice packaging with slogans like “If you stop to think, you’ll want paper when you drink.” It even found a new market – air raid shelters. Would you believe PCCI stockpiled 25 million paper cups and food containers in 20 presumptive target areas for immediate disbursement, without red tape, in the event of an atomic bomb attack?


Like the rest of America, the 1960s were filled with many changes at PCCI, as the Linen and Lace Institute and the Paper Plate Institute merged with PCCI to form the Plate, Cup & Container Institute (so glad the old acronym still worked). The new PCCI continued its promotional print and radio campaigns aimed at various market segments, but of course, all these campaigns were geared to paper foodservice packaging, when their plastic counterparts were starting to make inroads. In the 1970s, PCCI changed its bylaws to allow other materials (including plastic and aluminum) into the association, and ultimately PCCI became the “material-neutral” Single Service Institute (SSI).


SSI continued launching successful promotional campaigns, but it was soon clear that the association needed additional efforts elsewhere. Environmentalists, legislators and consumers were growing more concerned about litter, solid waste and resource recovery, and SSI had to not only promote the benefits of foodservice packaging, but also defend the industry against the growing number of attacks on their products, manufacturing practices, disposal, plus bottle bills, waste regulations and taxes on packaging and litter. With more work being required on the legislative front, SSI moved its offices from New York City to Washington, DC to better support its now 43 member companies.


The 1980s saw the continued interest in environmental activism, and SSI responded a focused, determined strategy that again promoted the sanitary qualities of the members’ products. At the same, the industry took proactive steps to regulate itself, agreeing to voluntarily phase out remaining CFCs used in the manufacturing foam products. For this, the Foodservice & Packaging Institute (yes, another name change and acronym – FPI) received the “Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award” from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


As the legislative attacks grew, FPI’s numbers swelled. Recognizing the need for a new and focused group to handle the polystyrene problem, several companies organized and funded a new group, the Polystyrene Packaging Council, now called the Plastics Foodservice Packaging Group and housed within the American Chemistry Council.


The start of the 20th Century saw more legislative pressures and rough economic times, both for the nation and FPI. While the association continued its award-winning promotional campaigns and launched the new industry “Foodservice Disposables are Indispensable” mark, FPI struggled with its future as mergers and acquisitions took their toll on the association. But FPI, with the strength of its leaner membership, budget and staff, endured.


As the mergers and acquisitions slowed, FPI expanded both with new converter and supplier members, but for the first time invited foodservice operators and distributors to join (for free). This helped to bring the value chain together and strengthen FPI’s position as the leading authority on foodservice packaging to key audiences. At the same time, FPI also expanded its horizons – literally – with the start of biennial joint meetings with the European Foodservice & Packaging Association (now Pack2Go Europe).


And while many of the challenges remain the same in recent years, FPI has evolved to meet them in new ways. The launch of FPI’s Paper Recovery Alliance (PRA) and Plastics Recovery Group (PRG) to increase recovery of our industry’s products and FPI’s new social media presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are just a few examples.  Please be sure to check out these new pages and like/follow us.


We are extremely proud of where we’ve been, our accomplishments on behalf of the foodservice packaging industry, and our contributions to its growth and development. We look forward with passion and dedication to advocating for this industry for many more years to come.


This post is from FPI President Lynn Dyer. Of FPI’s 80 years, she’s been there 15 of those in various capacities. Before that, she viewed FPI from afar working with the European Foodservice & Packaging Association in Brussels. If you’d like to provide feedback on this post, please post below or send an email to Lynn at


Posted By Lynn M. Dyer (President) | 7/18/2013 9:40:09 AM