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The Future of Meat Trays

The meat packaging industry has seen steady growth since its inception. However, new international regulations as well as an emerging climate-conscious market may need businesses to take a hard look at their supply chains. As a packaged meat producer, here’s all you need to know.


Meat Trays: The Story So Far

Worth USD 12.1 billion in 2020, expected to reach USD 13.65 billion by 2026. With North America being the largest market, the meat packing industry has been riding a steady high that’s likely to persist. And with it will persist the increasing demand for single-use plastics.


It’s no surprise why plastics are a packaging favourite. It’s easy to control the flexibility and permeability of different kinds of plastics, which allows packers to create the perfect tray. Typically made from EPS, HIPS, PET or PP, the plastic meat tray has become a regular visitor in homes worldwide.


But its story doesn’t end in the home. Like most single-use plastics, meat trays don’t typically find their way into systems that value a circular economy. Under 10% of plastics are recycled. And this problem is here to stay. The accumulation of single-use plastic waste reached a record high of 139 million tonnes in 2021.


supermarket trays


Why Your Business Should Care

The climate-forward consumer is increasingly looking to move away from single-use plastics. The opportunity for meat trays is especially significant when we consider that according to McKinsey, US and EU consumers are willing to pay a premium for sustainable packaging.


But don’t just count on the invisible hand; even regulators are stepping up against single-use plastics. EPS – the most common meat tray plastic in the United States – has found itself either banned or restricted in states such as Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Maine, and Vermont.


Whether to capitalise on a growing green market or to keep up with regulations, the standard meat tray is losing stock with larger industry players. The good thing is that making the sustainable switch is quite simple.


Flipping the Script

Molded Fiber meat trays have been a reliable alternative for packaged meat manufacturers over the last few years. They caught on quickly since EPS trays come in standard sizes – 20S, 3S, 8P, etc – which are easily replicable.


The catch? The options so far have been limited in functionality and aesthetics.


Cirkla’s meat trays are the most convenient sustainable alternative in the current market.

How did we do it? Better design, better functionality.


sustainable meat trays, recyclable meat trays


Made from sugarcane bagasse, the trays function like plastic in only the ways desired. They’re stiff and stackable with a non-stick surface, even after spending time in the oven or microwave or after multiple cycles of freeze-and-thaw. The uniform, die-cut edge design allows for a secure film seal. They’re MAP and VSP-compatible, PFAS-free, and come in multiple lamination options.


plastic-free meat trays


The Bottom Line

The path to a sustainable economy must be economically viable for producers. That’s why we don’t stop at performance parity.


We write your entire plastic-free packaging story.


We have partnered with some of the largest food, pharmaceutical, & CPG firms in the United States, the EU, the UK, and Asia to provide customised end-to-end solutions to efficient sustainable packaging.


Join them. Book your new packaging story here.


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