THEY DON'T REQUIRE washing, polishing or special handling. They look great on the table and even better in the budget. They're the new disposables, and they're making the move from backyard barbecues to an upscale event near you.
While pieces and patterns vary, manufacturers say one thing is certain: elegance is on the upswing in disposables design.
For WNA, based in Chelmsford, Mass., the goal is providing an option for clients who “are not simply switching from one plate line to another, [but] are switching from real china to a disposable,” says marketing communications coordinator Joseph H. Wolenski.
To meet this emerging demand, WNA has introduced its Masterpiece line. A frequent find at weddings, country-club events and other gala gatherings, according to Wolenski, Masterpiece “combines the convenience of a disposable and the refinement of hand-painted china.” The Masterpiece line, like all WNA products, also is recyclable.
Three patterns from Eagan, Minn.-based A&E Products cater to the high-end market, says senior product manager Susan Glander. With its fleur-de-lis pattern, the Legacy tableware line has been designed with weddings in mind, while the Opulence line, with deep plates and a high-gloss finish, combines hardiness and a porcelain-like appearance. Made for events with a modern look, the company's square Profiles plates come in black or clear.
“We work hard to keep informed of catering needs and trends,” says Glander, adding that all three upscale A&E lines “will show off every caterer's creative flair and innovative serving ideas.” She also notes that A&E products, made from polystyrene or polypropylene, “are recyclable where facilities exist.”
With food presentation taking precedence at events, disposables manufacturers are meeting the needs of today's culinary displays.
Glander notes that margarita and martini glasses — her company's most popular catering drinkware — do double duty as unique serving pieces. “Shrimp cocktail, ceviche or mashed potatoes look fabulous when served in a martini or margarita glass,” she says. Also gaining popularity are the Opulence line's newly introduced one-piece champagne flute and matching goblet, which are “not only great for beverages, [but] serve up an elegant appetizer or dessert as well,” she adds.
Wolenski points to WNA's Caterline collection as a caterer-friendly presentation innovation. “Before Caterline came into the industry, if you were a caterer and wanted to purchase a serving tray, you had only one choice: round and black,” he says. “Now, you have a choice of eight different colors, four different shapes and five different sizes.”
Another upscale disposables addition, the Newbury collection from Federalsburg, Md.-based Maryland Plastics features swirled detailing and an oversize design, and comes in clear, white, beige, black, silver and gold. Not only can the fully recyclable Newbury line “easily stand in for its permanent tableware counterpart in any table setting,” says national sales manager George Nicoletos, but caterers can mix and match pieces for a contemporary look in food presentation.
If you're still not sold on the new status of disposables, manufacturers suggest you take a cue from those in the know.
“Our products have shown up in the wildest of places,” Glander says. “Oprah Winfrey and her audience sampled wedding cake on our Scrollware plates, Whoopi Goldberg used our printed beverageware at her holiday party, and our Prestige coffee cup appeared in the movie ‘Fight Club.’”
“Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, uses a custom-printed Masterpiece plate,” Wolenski adds. “The U.S. Naval Academy, during last year's commencement, attended by vice president Cheney, used Masterpiece for the commencement dinner.”
A&E Products, 651/229-5322; Maryland Plastics, 800/544-5582; WNA, 978/256-6551