The Role of Packaging in Food Truck Culture
Follow the food trucks and eat on-the-go
All over the world, people are taking to the streets to enjoy a different kind of on-the-go dining experience–mobile food trucks. Globally, 2.5 billion people are eating street food every day1 and in most cases consumers are sampling niche international cuisines at affordable prices due to food trucks’ lower overhead costs compared to traditional restaurants.
This food truck revolution is clearly changing our perception of “take-out”, so where does packaging fit into the mix?
The first food trucks can be traced back to settlers in the American West in the late 1800’s when chuck wagons were introduced–a mobile canteen for cowboys and migrants. Quick, inexpensive food served from trucks remained relatively popular with consumers throughout the 20th century, but not overwhelmingly considered top-of-mind as a preferred way of eating. In addition, the number of operating food trucks was limited.
Then, at the height of the financial crisis, something changed. With less money to spend on dining out, people turned to food trucks in higher numbers than ever for quick and cheap meals. These modern food trucks are not your typical hot dog stand, but innovative gastronomic experiments on wheels that blend Western, Asian and other culinary traditions to create something unique.
The role of packaging
With more and more people patronizing food trucks, more challenges surface–such as how to attract new customers and ultimately convert them into repeat customers? (Twitter is now playing a critical role in food truck communication as people “follow the truck” to determine its location.) There is also the packaging element. How to store food in a confined space while best catering for the “to go” crowd?
The right packaging offers a practical way for customers to carry their food as well as giving food truck owners an important opportunity to promote their brand and leave consumers with a lasting impression. Food trucks have different packaging needs, primarily around keeping foods separate and at the right temperature. However, according to food & design agency, Geek and Food based in Lyon, France, recyclability, design and practicality are also key criteria.
Ideally, packaging should also stand out from the competition, while remaining useful. Such as the example of the Filipino food truck Guac Truck2 which checks all of these boxes. The practical, origami-inspired packaging mirrors the food that the truck serves, so patrons can easily seal the box with a sticker to save the meal for later. Likewise, the San Francisco-based Curry Up Now3 uses bright colors and professional-looking packaging to catch the eye of Millennials while establishing itself as a legitimate mobile food supplier. A clear trend is emerging for this kind of niche packaging in the food truck community.
1“7 Idées De Packaging De Street Food”, Geek & Food, http://geekandfood.fr/7-idees-de-packaging-de-street-food/2/
2“Five Sides of Sustainability”, Sustainable Initiatives, http://www.guactruck.com/design.html#1
3“8 Ingenious Food Truck Designs”, Print Mag, http://www.printmag.com/branding/7-ingenious-food-truck-designs/