Packaging innovation benefits everyone

The future of produce packaging won’t just benefit growers, suppliers, and consumers, it should be better for the environment too.

Plastic packaging seems to be on its way out, with concerns over ecological issues at an all-time high and sustainable solutions part of the cost of doing business.

Marcos Fernandes Vieria, global research and development director for Terphane, Inc. in Bloomfield, NY, foresees a time when all plastic packaging will go the way of the typewriter and the land line, replaced by more responsible alternatives made from recycled and biodegradable resins.

“At Terphane, we offer lidding films made from 30- to 80-percent post-consumer recycled material, as well as full biodegradables that don’t create microplastics or any harmful byproducts. The plastic is turned into humus [organic matter in soil] and can be used for a number of functions,” Fernandes Vieria says.

In this way, packaging comes full circle and follows a pattern set by pioneering companies like Loop and TerraCycle, whose goal to make every aspect of packaging part of a renewable life cycle aimed at ensuring ‘the end’ isn’t actually the end for produce containers.

Of course, as with all technological innovation, the payoff may not be immediate and the solutions of today may not show concrete benefits until tomorrow or well after, when buyers will think of them as natural and inevitable.

Suzanne Wolter, vice president of sales and marketing for Wenatchee, WA-based Keyes Packaging Group, BB #:339773 says that while the future is bright, many packaging innovations are still in the research and development phase, and companies like hers are careful to coordinate their work with qualified suppliers and partners to make sure they get it right.

So it may take time before consumers benefit from the new products, but Wolter believes it will be worth it in the end.

“The opportunity for us lies not with our current products; instead, we’re proactively engaging with customer partners to develop new replacement solutions. We have experienced, creative people who are embracing these new product developments.”

This is multi-part feature on produce packaging adapted from the October 2019 issue of Produce Blueprints.