An image of custom sushi takeout box with a consumer eating sushi in an article on Designing custom takeout boxes for sushi

Custom takeout boxes for sushi: What to consider during design

As sushi highlights fresh ingredients and often contains several food groups in one bite, it has become a popular food choice for millions of people around the world. According to a recent report, the number of sushi restaurants in the US has almost doubled in the last 10 years. Notably, sushi restaurants in the US market alone account for $28.4 billion, and the market has grown a further 6.6% in 2023.

While the idea may seem daunting, it is clear offering sushi as a takeout option can be a highly effective way to capitalise on consumer demands. That said, the type of takeout boxes you choose will be of the utmost importance when delivering this product to consumers, as it must be in pristine condition. Investing in custom takeout boxes for sushi can help maintain the food integrity and help appeal to your customer base.

Custom takeout boxes for sushi can help you maintain both the look and integrity of this delicate dish throughout the transport and delivery process. Customising the shape, size, material, and design of your sushi takeout box can help ensure customer satisfaction, food quality, and brand loyalty.

The origin of sushi & its growing popularity

While many believe the cuisine came from Japan, its origins can be traced back to China and a dish named narezushi. Locals would cure and ferment freshwater fish in salt and cooked rice to help prolong its shelf life, giving rise to narezushi or fermented sushi. In essence, the dish consists of salted fish and fermented rice. 

After arriving in Japan during the 8th century, it evolved into a dish that closely resembles the one known today. Sushi today often comprises cold vinegar-flavoured rice that is moulded around slices of raw seafood or fresh vegetable. Over time, it has evolved into somewhat of an art form due to the knife work involved and the time it takes to assemble each piece. 

Sushi has grown in popularity around the world as it is affordable, convenient, and healthy. Additionally, sushi uses a wide variety of ingredients, from the traditional fish and vegetable combination to more creative options such as strawberry and cream cheese. Therefore, it is a dish that caters to everyone’s tastes. According to research conducted by British meal kit company Gousto, sushi ranks third on the list of the 10 “most Instagrammed regional dishes”, with an accumulated 23.6 million posts. 

An image of a custom takeout box for sushi with sushi inside, takeout container made from kraft paper, compostable takeout container in an article on Designing custom takeout boxes for sushi

What to consider when designing a sushi takeout box

Due to the size and delicate nature of the dish, there are several factors to consider when designing takeout boxes for sushi. For instance, there are several types of sushi, each varying in shape and size. Therefore, your boxes will have to accommodate this, as consumers are likely to order several different types of sushi at once. 

More so, you will have to determine whether you want a space for accessories, such as chopsticks, and containers for soy sauce, ginger shavings, and wasabi. These condiments are often served alongside sushi to help cleanse the palate between pieces, so customers will expect them to arrive with the meal. 

The size of a sushi container needs to be weighed carefully, both from the customer’s perspective and from that of the delivery driver. For instance, a long rectangular box may appeal to you, but delivery services may struggle to pack the container into their bags for transit. In turn, this may result in the sushi shifting, and the customer receiving a messy meal. 

Ideally, the box should ensure the sushi sits close together to avoid it drying out. However, it is important to remember that sushi is as much a visual presentation as it is a flavourful experience. A box that is too small may destroy the shape of the product and ruin the consumer’s eating experience. Therefore, understanding the size of the sushi on your menu is key when determining the size of the box.

One of the most important factors to consider will the material used to make the takeout boxes. For example, foam containers may be the most cost-effective, but lack the recyclable properties most consumers expect from their packaging. More so, foam food containers are fairly limited in the range of customisation techniques that can be used.

Takeout containers made from sustainable materials are well worth the investment, as they not only appeal to a growing number of eco-conscious consumers but also help reduce the amount of single-use plastics. 

An image of fold out takeout boxes for sushi, custom sushi takeout containers, in an article on Designing custom takeout boxes for sushi

The sustainability factor

A recent survey found over 85% of consumers are more likely to purchase a product if the packaging is sustainable. Therefore, investing in sushi boxes that are compostable, biodegradable, or made from recyclable plastic can help increase customer loyalty and repeat sales. Admittedly, the initial cost of switching to sustainable packaging can be high, but it is well worth it, as it can reduce the carbon footprint of your business. 

Sushi boxes made from recyclable plastics, such as polylactic acid (PLA), can be made clear to showcase the food inside while keeping it safe from external contaminants. As it is made from the starches and sugars of corn and is completely bio-based, this form of packaging is easily recyclable, which means it will break down in a consumer’s home compost heap. Furthermore, the compost can then be used as a soil improver or an organic fertiliser.

Sustainable food packaging that is made from circular materials that are renewable, recyclable or compostable means there’s less strain put on the planet’s resources. Furthermore, it means virgin materials are kept out of circulation in favour of reusable ones, reducing the reliance on fossil fuels.

Something as small as your choice of takeout containers can have a significant impact on food quality and customer experience. Many operators forget a takeout experience may be the only contact a customer has with your restaurant, so capitalising on the opportunity is key to bringing them back for more business.

It is essential that, when designing custom sushi boxes, you have the customer in mind from start to finish, as they are likely to handle the packaging the most. In essence, the packaging should be small and lightweight, yet durable, and have the ability to protect the food while maintaining its aesthetic.