“Giving the consumers a chance to find the product again for follow-up purchases — you can’t do that with a bulk peach, but you can do it with a package," says Steve Lutz, regional vice president of the U.S. West and Canada for the Produce Marketing Association. ( Courtesy Sun Pacific Marketing )

Fresh produce packaging can perform a valuable function as a marketing tool, produce marketers say.

“If you have good packaging, it can be critical. If you have mediocre packaging, it doesn’t bring much to the party other than being a repository for the product,” said Steve Lutz, regional vice president of the U.S. West and Canada for the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association.

But the opportunity to tell the story, to cement branding with consumers, creates a visual connection between the product and product qualities and the package is extremely powerful, Lutz said.

“Giving the consumers a chance to find the product again for follow-up purchases — you can’t do that with a bulk peach, but you can do it with a package. Over time, it’s clear that consumers recognize packaging and brands and respond to it. When you do your job, it can be a powerful tool for not only cementing trial but repurchases.”

Package makers understand the possibilities.

“Historically an afterthought, branding is becoming increasingly important in the produce department, driven by consumers’ demand for trust and transparency in the products they purchase,” said Andy Laible, marketing manager with Hartsville, S.C.-based Sonoco Corp.

“Through innovative packaging formats and shapes, as well as high-quality printing solutions, produce suppliers are able to communicate the attributes and benefits of their product, but also establish consistency and build the equity of their brand.”

Customers say that packaging plays an important marketing role, said Jeff Watkin, graphic and marketing manager with Collinsville, Ill.-based packaging manufacturer Sev-Rend.

“We see an increasing demand for messaging support in art and print copy as well as for die-cut customized pouches and labels. These efforts reinforce customer branding efforts and increases consumer demand, leading to increased sales of fresh produce,” he said.

Clay Reis, area general manager at Atlanta-based packaging manufacturer Georgia-Pacific, agreed.

“Packaging as a marketing tool is very important,” he said. “As more retailers display produce in shipping containers, the package is an ideal canvas to tell the product story in a way that’s as unique and compelling as the product itself.”

The “brand recognition” aspect is central to effective packaging, said Aaron Fox, executive vice-president of McAllen, Texas-based Fox Packaging.

“It helps people — you can do things with packaging, whether recipes or whatever, a link that helps people learn how to utilize the product better,” he said.

Watsonville-based California Giant Berry Farms sends marketing messages through its packaging, said Cindy Jewell, vice president of marketing.

“Since the label and the package helps sell our company brand and products, we constantly assess the space we have on both the front and the back of the label to provide greatest impact to the consumer,” she said.

Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers LLC will look to packaging to get the word out about its new Rave apple variety, said Brianna Shales, spokeswoman.

“Packaging and signage is the way to do that,” she said.

“Even the boxes we put Rave apples in are branded. That eliminates costs in other ways, too. They can be used as displays at retail.”

 
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