What is the best type of food packaging tray?
Finding the perfect tray solution can be tricky as there is a lot to weigh up... cost, product fit, sealing and of course the item that customers are placing increasing value on… are you able to recycle the packaging?
To help discover the differences, we’ve created a cheat sheet that runs through the pros and cons of each tray type.
Broadly speaking, food packaging trays fall into three categories, based on their materials.
- Plastic Trays
- Plant-based Trays
- Metal Trays
Let's start with the best known, but often the most misunderstood; plastic food trays.
Plastic food trays
The problem of single-use plastic has meant that the P-word is often used in hushed voices among end-consumer circles. But, while single-use plastics are gradually being replaced, recycled and recyclable plastics are one of the best opportunities for creating a truly circular economy.
C-PET Recyclable Food Trays
C-PET trays are incredibly versatile. They can handle fresh, cooked and frozen products as well as ticking the boxes for recyclability.
C-PET trays are perfect for heat-and-eat meals
✔️ The perfect solution for multi-temperature environments, such as ready-made meals.
✔️Can be heated in the microwave or oven from frozen (-40 to 220 degrees).
✔️ Large range of sizes and configurations readily available
✔️ Type one recyclable in New Zealand
✔️Compatible with conventional and compostable lidding film
🙂 Made with up to 80% recycled plastic
Plant-Based, Home Compostable Packaging
Compostable packaging is emerging fast. Customer trust in anything compostable is high, even though the actual composting of these products may not be happening.
The thing to look out for in compostable packaging is the distinction between commercially and home compostable packaging. Commercially compostable packaging is a great step in the direction of sustainability, but there are currently very few bridges between the end-consumer's rubbish bin and commercial composting facilities.
The better solution is to look for HOME compostable packaging options, that have an accreditation behind them are badged as "OK HOME Compostable".
BIOPAP Home Compostable Food Trays
BIOPAP trays are a really flexible, environmentally friendly tray choice. Their home compostable waterproof barrier lining means they handle liquids without leaking, but they still compost fully when buried.
BIOPAP Trays are an excellent plant-based alternative to C-PET
✔️ The perfect C-PET alternative that has all the perks of C-PET, but is made from BIOPAP and is 100% compostable at home.
✔️ Can handle the same heating and cooling as C-PET, but are sustainably sourced and have a low carbon footprint
✔️ Compatible with conventional and compostable lidding film
😕 If end-consumers don't compost at home, they will still go into landfill
Bagasse Sugar Cane Fibre Trays
Made from compressed sugar-cane fibre (called Bagasse), these trays are made from "pre-consumer" plant waste; the otherwise unused by-product of sugar production that has been re-purposed before entering the hands of customers.
Bagasse Sugar Cane Fibre trays are spot-on for sustainability and fast-turnaround foods
✔️Similar to BIOPAP they are constructed by natural products, but in this case, they are made from a natural by-product of sugar production and is 100% compostable at home
✔️Can handle the same heating and cooling as C-PET, but are sustainably sourced and has a low carbon footprint
✔️Compatible with most compostable lidding
😕 Slightly shorter shelf life for fresh foods (up to 5 days), since they have no waterproof barrier lining
Metal Food Trays
Aluminium food trays
Aluminium food trays have been around for donkey's years. They can be sealed with lidding film and heated from frozen, but there is a lot of consumer confusion around disposing of them and they don't always look the prettiest.
✔️ Similar to CPET, an aluminium foil tray is good at handling hot and cold temperatures.
be recycled, but only be once the tray is completely cleaned of food scraps and grease
😕 Many end-consumers don't know if they can be recycled, so the trays end up in landfill
There are so many things to consider when it comes to choosing the right tray for your product, your brand and your customers. We're hoping this quick guide gives some more clarity around the pro's and con's of the options available.
And of course, we're here to help. So feel free to give us a buzz and have a chat
with one of our experts if you're uncertain about anything.