2005 Portability Study: Meals on the move

FoodService Director's first annual portability study.

Packing It In

Your portable meal may be only as good as the container in which you package it.

How can you turn brown-baggers into, well, plastic-clamshellers? With a better clamshell, some non-commercial foodservice operators say.

Precisely 50% of operators participating in FSD’s Portability Business-Builder Study say they plan on increasing their portable meal business this year by purchasing new kinds of packaging materials that enhance portability, maintain food safety and—maybe most importantly of all—hold up well in transport.

Foam containers are the most commonly used containers, according to the study: 71% of operators use them. Containers with clear lids—whether clamshell, plate or bowl—are also high on the list, indicating a growing emphasis on food helping to sell itself.

The clear choice: “Everything [we serve] is in clear containers,” says Kerry Moore, foodsevice director at The Gallup Organization in Omaha, Neb. “They’re expensive containers, about twice the cost of foam, but we feel the presentation sells the food.”

Foam and plastic are the dominant materials, according to survey responses, with only about one-third of operators saying they use paper containers. At Citigroup in Centen-nial, Co., “we don’t have [any] dishes or flatware,” says Linda Anderson, foodservice director. That means there’s less need for dishwashers, equating to some savings in labor.

“Normal” foam clamshell products are used with entrees, she adds, while soups and salads are taken to-go in containers with a black bottom and clear plastic tops. “We use foam and plastic for everything, not just to-go.”
The quest for more functional packaging continues:

  • A black, hexagonal salad plate with lid is used at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, N.J., replacing a clear shell.
  • At an Aramark client (a financial institution) in New York, the container used is an elongated box that resembles an Asian food container but is longer and flatter, explains Greta Reinen, foodservice director. Plus, it has a poly-coated interior to prevent leakage.

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