The challenge to creating a compelling package for potatoes is complex, because bags must protect product integrity while attracting a shopper’s attention, says Jeff Watkin, marketing director with Collinsville, Ill.-based packaging manufacturer Sev-Rend Inc.
One challenge Sev-Rend has met involves a bag that prevents greening and preserves the potatoes’ shelf life, he said.
“Sev-Rend created the Clearview Pouch directly for this reason,” Watkin said.
“The Clearview Pouch is designed with special barrier properties on the walls of the pouch to cut down on the light exposure of the product.”
The bottom gusset still has a window, so the product is visible to the consumer before purchase, Watkin said.
“We have several of our clients utilize this pouch style mainly for their mini potato category,” he said.
A mesh-poly combination seems popular with clients, because it’s ideal for certain potato types in the marketplace, Watkin said.
“The soft netting is perfect for handling the product for consumer-sized bags, and the film is ideal for branding and other product communication in the retail side,” he said.
In addition, the mesh-poly combination creates a total package volume that is “much less” than other packaging types, such as ridged plastic containers, Watkin said.
“There is a waste-reduction decision that comes into play when utilizing the mesh-poly packaging type — and on top of that, recyclable options exist for it, as well,” he said.
More focus is going to sustainable forms for packaging, said Eric Beck, marketing director at Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC.
“Whether that is with the packaging itself or the manufacturing process of the medium, the science is still vetting the various propositions,” he said.
“The core goal remains the same for each entity, and that is a reduction in carbon footprint by integrating sustainable practices throughout the entire supply chain.”
Sustainability in packaging has become a business necessity, said Rachel Atkinson-Leach, category and brand manager at Bancroft, Wis.-based Russet Potato Exchange (RPE) Inc.
“‘Sustainable’ is the word du jour these days,” she said.
“Every producer is looking into packaging alternatives to plastics, because consumers are demanding it and our customers have set deadlines to reduce or eliminate it.”
There are three ways to implement sustainable packaging, Atkinson-Leach said, including reducing packaging and components; increasing recyclability, reusability and compostability; and using recycled content.
“RPE is looking into all avenues,” she said.
Sustainability and earth-friendly packaging also are top-of-mind among industry marketers and driven by consumers, said Christine Lindner, national sales representative with Alsum Farms & Produce Inc., Friesland, Wis.
“We are currently evaluating best options based on what consumers desire with what will maintain the integrity of our product,” she said.
When it comes to packaging, for Houston-based grower-shipper MountainKing Potatoes, a priority is the performance of meshed, see-through bags on the small-size potatoes the company packs, said John Pope, vice president of sales and marketing.
“Besides the positive feedback from our retail partners, a recent customer survey by MountainKing shows 71% of respondents prefer the meshed bags when it comes to small potatoes,” he said.
“Besides giving the customer the opportunity to see the product, meshed bags extend product shelf life.”
Packaging also can do much to call attention to the product inside, Sev-Rend’s Watkin said.
“Utilizing a custom-printed full-wrap film or pouch for their product adds a lot of real estate for high-quality graphics,” he said.
“These packaging types can also utilize different film types such as soft touch film to give the final package a premium look.”
Packaging manufacturers should work with retailers, as well as potato suppliers, to ensure all are successful, Watkin said.
“Having your packaging supplier involved in the beginning stages of a new program or product launch is critical in streamlining the whole process,” he said.
“There is a lot of planning that we can consult on that can alleviate the 11th-hour surprises we sometimes see with a new launch. We also see a lot of success with clients utilizing us for multiple packaging types to ensure there is a consistent look on the packaging’s print in the marketplace.”
For Fryeburg, Maine-based Green Thumb Farms, packaging performs multiple marketing tasks, said Mike Hart, director of sales and marketing.
“At Green Thumb, we’ve found two ways to create consumer interest through packaging: designing packs for a specific use and exploring varietals,” he said.
“One example of packaging for specific use is our product Picnic Perfect, which offers ready-to-steam potatoes in the bag, specifically for making potato salad and similar side dishes quickly.”
Attractive packaging that highlights the benefits of the product is an added marketing tool that creates curiosity and provides consumers inspiration, Alsum’s Lindner said.
“Many consumers are curious and try products based on attractive packaging; Alsum Farms & Produce offers attractive farmer-focused packaging to connect the consumer with the grower,” she said.
“In addition, Alsum’s packaging is visually appealing with appetizing potato recipes to provide consumers inspiration in the produce aisle.”