Packaging business grows along with value-added market

03/08/2011 02:15:41 PM
Jim Offner

As fresh-cut fruits and vegetables carve a bigger share of produce sales, packaging is playing a bigger role in the value-added category, suppliers said.

According to the Perishables Group, West Dundee, Ill., in 2010 stores averaged $1,587 in fresh-cut fruit sales per week per store through July 31, and $804 in the vegetable category.

Stores were averaging $1,587 in fresh-cut fruit sales per week per store through July 31, and $804 in the vegetable category, according to the report.

Each side seemed to have its package type of choice. In vegetables, 44.7% were sold in bags and 40.3% in clamshells.

Clamshell-type packaging dominated fresh-cut fruit packaging, at 67.6%.

As the pack types continue to branch out in size, type and even materials, packaging manufacturers have had to keep up with produce companies, stride for stride, in sustainability efforts.

And they’re doing it, said Emily Ewing, marketing manager for Fabri-Kal, Kalamazoo, Mich.

“Fabri-Kal launched five or six years ago Greenware cups,” she said. “It was the first line of cups made from plant-based material. It was a pioneer of providing environmentally friendly options.”

Three years ago, the company launched a drink cup line with its portion cups, she added.

“We also have product lines that are made with post-consumer recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate, a recyclable material). Our line of clear deli containers is made with 50% post-consumer recycled PET and our line of clear dessert containers is made with 20% post-consumer recycled PET. Post-consumer recycled material takes plastic out of the waste stream that would have traditionally been destined for landfills.”

It’s an evolution that has driven packaging, just as it has produce, said Ed Byrne, general manager of Exeter, Calif.-based Peninsula Packaging.

“It seems to me like the people we serve … for them, sustainability is an issue,” he said. “Consumers seem to think probably first PET was the best material because it was recyclable. Second came recycling of bottles. That seems to be the material that gets the most traction.”

Consumers have gravitated toward recyclable materials, and so have produce companies, Byrne said.

But clamshell manufacturers have to be careful about certain claims about recyclability, he added.

“It’s considered misleading to call clamshells recyclable,” he said. “They are recycled, but they are not recycled everywhere in the country. If there’s no facility, that’s considered by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) to be misleading.”


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