But, it feels like we’re climbing the waterspout. What do I mean? Well, FPI just released the results of its sixteenth annual State of the Foodservice Packaging Industry survey. We ask a variety of very specific questions for raw material suppliers (including machinery suppliers), converters, distributors and operators. We even ask our friends from Pack2Go Europe to participate to get a better idea of what is going on across the pond. For the past four years, I have been the one to administer the survey and compile the report. It’s a great way to pick up on the sentiments of the industry. This year, it feels like the sun is finally coming out to dry up all the rain. We ask respondents to not only tell us about last year, but also forecast for the rest of the year to come. Most everyone said that this year was going to be better than last year’s better. And last year was better, compared to 2013. In fact, for the first time since we started asking questions about the “recession” and economic recovery back in 2009, our North American participants did not register it as one of their top 5 challenges. So, maybe we’re really over that hump? Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses. The usual challenges associated with margin compression, increasing overhead expenses and increasing raw material costs are definitely weighing heavily. Although, this year we heard a lot more comments about the positive effects of lower resin costs on converters. Another indication this year’s forecast looks good? Three quarters of the converters who participated plan to buy new machinery this year. Down the distributor and operator line, there were more optimistic remarks as well. Again, better was the word that most used to describe last year as well as the forecast for 2015.
All across the industry, we are also still concerned about environmental activism and what recovery and end of life options there are for foodservice packaging and the idea that our products are perceived as “waste” by the public. We know this to be true. It’s one of the main reasons we have member companies willing to work with FPI’s Paper Recovery Alliance and Plastics Recovery Group, as well as the Foam Recycling Coalition. This is an area where the industry has an opportunity to take some proactive control in a world where much of the state of the industry is dictated by economic factors well beyond our reach.
As we make our way up the waterspout of 2015, I am hopeful that next year’s State of the Foodservice Packaging Industry will report even more good news and opportunities for the future. Oh, and if you’d like to participate in next year’s survey, we send it out to all of our FPI members each year. Non-member companies are also invited to participate along with the Pack2Go Europe members. The results are aggregated and the survey report is only shared with FPI members and those non-members who participate. We’d love to hear what you have to say about the foodservice packaging industry – here’s a great opportunity to tell us!