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Session explores the reality of packaging in produce

gpfs packaging session
Panelists discuss the realities of fresh produce packaging at the Global Produce & Floral Show.

ANAHEIM—A discussion of the intricacies of packaging in the fresh produce is a lot to cover in 30 minutes.

At the International Fresh Produce Association – Fresh Produce Packaging: The Demand, The Technology, The Reality, a panel of industry experts laid out some key issues the industry is facing as we’re looking at recyclability, sustainability, and retail expectations.

The long-term goal needs to be packaging that returns to its source – and that’s not necessarily recycling, said Jac. Vandenburg’s John Paap.

“I think we’ve come to a point in the last decade and understanding that recycling is not going to solve the problem that we have to solve,” he said. “And I think the core of materials, looking forward for truly focused on … sustainability is finding the material that works in balance with nature.”

While the goal is more compostable and bio-based alternatives, but for now, plastic is the reality, said Jen Doxey, director of sales for Fox Packaging.

“I think with some of these regulations that are coming down the pike is some of the fees and things like that are going to be associated with the plastics and the packaging, to try to facilitate and fund some of the infrastructure that we currently lack to be able to recycle a lot of the plastics that we use in most of the products today,” Doxey said.

There are goals, such as in California, to require plastic to be 100 percent recyclable in the next ten years. A lot of work needs to be done to meet those goals.

When you add in the retail and consumer side, said Rich Mendonsa of Mendonsa Consulting, formerly of Albertsons, it gets more complicated.

“They want everything, but for low cost,” he said. “It also needs to be simpler for consumers.”

They want the same experience they get from a plastic package – being able to see the product, and the same shelf life and reliability.

And right now, the industry may not have this perfect solution, Paap said.

“I’m not saying that solution exists today,” he said. “But I feel like if we set that goal, just like you did with the moon, we have a ton of super intelligent, innovative people in this world that will find that solution. And collaboration is a key point to that.”


Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.