The phrase "luncheon meat in pouches" strikes me as singularly unappetizing — industrially grown meat, lashed with God-knows-what chemicals, and stuffed into plastic. Even as an industrial-food-scarfing child, the slippery wetness and sketchy pink color of such food always struck me as just wrong (not that it stopped me from digging in).

Can’t be easy on the landscape, either, given the undeniable depredations of industrial meat, and the lifecycle-spanning horrors of plastic. And yet, and yet … "lunch meat in pouches" is taking the convenience-food world by storm. Reports a trade journal:

US households spent about $3.75bn on luncheon meat in pouches in 2006, marking a doubling of sales from 2003, according to US market analyst Nielson Homescan Consumer Facts.

Ouch. And moreover "Pouches containing the high-protein treat were bought by 56.2 per cent of American families, marking a doubling of sales from 2003."

Consumers seeking "organic" and health-marketed food did their bit to stoke the trend, too:

According to Neilson, organic boasted a 68.6 percent growth leap in dollar sales to $15.1m, natural varieties soared by 47.8 percent in dollar sales to $98.6m, a growth rate double that of the prior year, while fat-presence data for lunchmeat showed explosive sales trends for the "absence of specific fat" varieties rose a massive 987.8 percent rise to $2.0 million in pouches.

Eek.

Meanwhile, demand for such "convenience" packaging, especially plastic, is growing smartly:

According to the Freedonia Group, US demand for food containers will climb 3.3 per cent a year and reach $23.5 billion by 2011.

Plastic containers and bags will experience the fastest growth, with the market worth $9.9bn in 2011 from $8.0bn in 2006, driven by its performance attributes and an increasing demand for smaller packages sizes, the group said.

As a material for rigid packaging, plastic will continue to outpace paperboard, metal and glass in terms of percentage growth. Rigid plastic container demand is expected to grow 6.3 per cent each year from $3.3bn in 2006 to $4.5bn in 2011.

Nothing good can come of these trends.