Global demand for cups and lids is projected to increase 5.2% per year to $30.2 billion in 2019. Demand is determined primarily by the size of the quick service restaurant (QSR) market and the production of packaged processed foods. As a result, the US has historically held a significant share of the global total. However, going forward, the Asia/Pacific region will offer one of the fastest rates of growth due to continued gains in developing markets such as China and India. Central and South America and the Africa/Mideast region will also post above average growth, while a declining population will hold down gains in Eastern Europe. These and other trends are presented in World Cups & Lids, a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland-based industry research firm.

The foodservice market, especially the QSR segment, is growing rapidly worldwide, especially in developing countries. Historically, most developing nations have not been significant markets for disposable cups and lids. However, analyst Mike Richardson notes, “As Western-style fast food restaurants become more prevalent, use of disposables will also become more widespread.” While QSR outlets continue to proliferate nearly everywhere in the world, demand for disposable cups and lids will not advance commensurately in all locations. While disposables are generally used in the vast majority of QSR establishments in the US, elsewhere in the world they have been typically reserved for takeout/takeaway patrons.

A number of initiatives worldwide also favor use of conventional serviceware, in order to reduce litter and lower the environmental burden of disposables. For example, West European countries generally favor the use of traditional cups and glasses, using renewable disposables such as paper cups only when necessary. In India, rail lines and some municipalities have prohibited plastic tea cups due to the amount of waste they create. In South Korea, coffee shops can use disposables only for to-go orders. In the US, foodservice is the largest market for cups and lids, but in many locations, food processing is the principal outlet. Key food packaging uses for cups and lids include single-serve microwaveable entrees, a variety of dairy products, soup and noodle dishes, cereal, and baby foods. Although single-serve food cups will remain most common in the US, they are beginning to appear more frequently in other countries as well. Outside the US market, the largest applications for cups and lids in food processing will remain instant noodles (particularly in Asia) and yogurt (particularly in Europe).