Packaging has the ability to be an information and marketing hotbed.

My job as a retail produce supervisor allows me the opportunity to see new packaging daily.

I’m increasingly impressed by the innovative use of packaging in the produce industry.

Innovative packaging supports the environment, adds convenience, improves food safety, and also educates the consumer about nutrition, cooking and the story behind the company — all wrapped up in one.

Good packaging also gives products that aren’t easy to take to market an edge, not only by differentiating these brands, but also by facilitating the job of department managers when it comes to merchandising.

Retailers notice convenience.

Innovative packaging can signal that good ideas come from these supply partners, that they are committed to the highest standards in marketing, sustainability, consumer convenience, food safety and supply chain efficiency, and that they value the credibility of their brands and companies.

Working in retail — and entering my third year as one of the judges for Produce Marketing Association’s Packaging Impact Award — I see no end in sight to packaging’s innovative use in delivering consumer and industry solutions.

Plus, with the intensifying use of smartphones, I predict packaging ideas for connecting shoppers (right there in the produce department) to the company, product and information on nutrition, product origin, food safety, sustainability, recipes, and storage and handling are only going to snowball.

Being able to communicate on these points simply and easily adds value that works beyond price and triggers sales of fresh fruits and vegetables.

In this day and age of produce marketing, if pursuit of packaging innovation isn’t one of your company priorities, you need to re-evaluate.

If I’m not convincing enough about the importance of packaging, listen to the wisdom this repeat Impact Award winner has to share.

Packaging advice

Packaging magic moves beyond priceRoger Pepperl, marketing director of Stemilt Growers LLC, Wenatchee, Wash.

Q: What winning tips would you give to package developers?

A: I’d suggest building things that are bright, colorful and fun, and thinking about what contemporary new things are important, like a QR code, bringing the family farm into it, bringing nutrition into it — those types of things.

Also, I think being respectful of the retail industry and that they have a very hard job to do and need to have things easy to execute is important.

Complex does not work when you’re talking about going out to hundreds of stores.

Q: What’s a less obvious benefit of being recognized for innovative packaging?

A: To me, it is obvious in seeing the value of having a retailer appreciate you.

But I think it’s important that other suppliers in the industry, not necessarily competing suppliers, appreciate you too.

I want our company to be admired by other suppliers in other parts of the produce industry. When you’re in a room full of people and talking about the job we’re all in, the question about a company you admire in the produce industry always comes up.

I think that having a good reputation on both sides of the fence is very important. I think the credibility you get from your peers is important.

Q: PMA’s Impact Award criteria evaluate connecting with consumers, enhancing food safety, sustaining the environment and improving supply chain efficiencies.

Regardless of awards, why is it important for companies to equally consider all these aspects in package development?

A: I think all the categories are important to our world, and all companies should be focused on those things.

I think a lot of times if you were to look at who’s entered and what they’ve entered you can pull some analogy from their ideas into your own, regardless of company size.

You might think: ‘I could do this in a much smaller way than this company, but it would make a big difference.’

I think to learn from that is good. You should always approach your world like you’re going after all those award categories.

Also, these categories can help you figure out how to dress it up and present packaging to your customers in a better way. It can also help you understand how you can take that same clarity to retailers.

Kip Martin is produce and floral supervisor for West Sacramento, Calif.-based Raley’s Family of Fine Stores, and 2012 PMA Impact Award judge.

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