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The Year Ahead: The packaging quest

2024 year ahead

Related to the environment and being better stewards of the planet is packaging.

Irwin Donis-González, associate professor at the University of California, Davis and director of the Postharvest Technology Center acknowledges the big push for sustainability, especially in eliminating plastics, though there are food quality and safety implications.

“It’s incredibly challenging, because plastics are quite good at maintaining the properties of produce when it’s transported or stored.”

He notes that biodegradable plastics made with alternative materials like milkweed or coffee pulp are being developed, but none are at a point where they can meet industry needs or can be produced in sufficient quantities.

“A few growers will be testing out some sustainable, paper-made containers for grapes,” says Tammy Collum, in sales for Vanguard Direct, LLC BB #:338552 of Bakersfield, CA. “This is challenging for Peruvian grapes like ours that must travel thousands of miles. But for fruit that’s packed and shipped quickly to its destination, this will work for those customers looking for an alternative to plastic clamshells.”

Yet sustainability efforts can take many forms.

“At Naturipe, we’re proud to use clamshells made with recycled content, reduced plastic, washaway labels, and recycling instructions,” Jim Roberts, president of sales for Naturipe Farms, LLC, BB #:116078 in Salinas, CA says. “We also use solar power in several of our packaging and cooling facilities.”

One area unlikely to gain rapid traction is a transition to electric vehicles for long-haul trucking, according to Fred Plotsky, president of transportation broker Cool Runnings, Ltd. BB #:125423 in Kenosha, WI.

“Where’s the next charging station?” he asks. “The infrastructure is not there—there’s a big push, but it’s not a viable option for long-haul. There’s a long way to go.”

This is an excerpt from the feature story from the January/February 2024 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine. Click here to read the whole issue.