When it comes to packaging fried chicken sold in retail foodservice and other foodservice channels, the status quo has held for some time, said Natha Dempsey, president of the Falls Church, Va.-based Foodservice Packaging Institute. “We haven’t seen a bunch of new packaging products here. It’s still primarily a combination of traditional paperboard bucket-style packaging and two-piece plastic containers with black bottom/clear top or all clear packaging.”

In terms of innovations, what stands out for Dempsey in recent years is polypropylene packaging.

Other advancements include venting systems and better transparency. Polypropylene tends to be an opaque material, Dempsey said, but new clarifiers have made these materials clearer for customer viewing.

“People like to be able to see what they are choosing to eat.”

Packaging fried chicken comes with its own set of challenges, Dempsey said. One is keeping product both hot and crispy.

“Once packaged, the hot food items release steam that gets trapped and will leave the chicken soggy. Venting and moisture control help mitigate that.”

Sustainable solutions

For industry members looking to up their sustainability games when it comes to packaging of fried chicken and other foods, Dempsey suggests starting by clearly defining your terms.

“I always start by asking the question: What does recyclable or sustainable mean to you? It’s difficult to respond without definitions or parameters since these terms mean different things to various audiences.”

Once those terms are defined, there are more options now than ever. More companies, for instance, can recycle foodservice packaging due to their communities accepting those packaging types in their residential recycling streams, Dempsey said.

“FPI’s dedicated work on the recovery of foodservice packaging has lent itself well to this process. Additionally, our industry is always evolving and innovating new products and materials. And through those innovation processes, recovery — recycling or composting — of our products is always top of mind for our members.”

This article is an excerpt from the September 2023 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. You can read the entire Fried Chicken feature and more in the digital edition here.