Choosing the right packaging to meet retailers’ sustainability initiatives is just as important to fresh produce suppliers as selecting it for reasons of supply chain efficiency and shelf appeal, according to the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI).
Packaging that keeps food fresher for longer, as well as offering maximum product protection, is also a driver for keeping costs down which can be incurred when items become spoiled or are damaged in transit.
CPI has already introduced the Common Footprint Quality (CFQ) standard for the UK’s fresh produce industry. This will further improve the efficiency of the supply chain for growers and retailers by allowing common footprint trays from different suppliers to be stacked safely and quickly, maximising space in both storage shipping.
Three Corrugated companies in the UK – DS Smith, Saica Pack and Smurfit Kappa – have all adopted the quality standard to create a benchmark for packaging that takes into account both the produce to be packed, and the distance it travels.
The CFQ initiative demonstrates that the UK Corrugated Industry is actively providing the best possible packaging outcomes for customers, including effective hygienic solutions that reduce the risk of contamination to fresh produce.
Research for the European Federation of Corrugated Board Manufacturers (FEFCO), by a team from Bologna University, found that bacteria affected fruit far less when packaged in corrugated trays than in reusable plastic crates (RPC), resulting in three days’ extra shelf life when using corrugated board.
Microbiological contamination of fruit and vegetables is a major concern for retailers. The scientific research carried out by the university confirmed that cross contamination from pathogenic and spoilage microorganisms are more extensive in RPCs because they survive longer on plastic surfaces than corrugated.
Single-use packaging also eliminates the possibility of transfer, via the packaging, of infected soil particles and bacteria from one growing area to another. Corrugated packaging solutions in the supply chain helps the fresh produce industry deliver goods to market cleanly and safely, reducing the impact that lost crops have on a grower’s bottom line and cutting down on food waste.
Corrugated packaging’s greater protective qualities and ability to adapt to all shapes and sizes also offers growers improved saleability for fruit and vegetables. Because of its excellent environmental record, corrugated can also help fresh produce retain a lower carbon footprint compared with other food sectors.
More than 80% of corrugated is recycled, the best UK recycling record of any packaging material, and where new fibre is used, it comes from sustainably managed forests.
The growing and crowded market place of e-commerce is another sector where packaging needs to be flexible, offer a strategy for brand appeal, improved protection during transit, and ultimately customer satisfaction.
CPI Director of Packaging Affairs, Andy Barnetson, said: “Corrugated packaging’s ability to adapt to all shapes and sizes, its greater protective qualities, and how it has evolved from a conventional brown box into a marketing tool thanks to the development of attractive shelf ready packaging gives growers improved saleability for their products.”
The Corrugated Industry’s message to the fresh produce companies is that corrugated keeps fruit and vegetables safe and fresh for longer, working with retailers, category managers, growers, importers, agents and packers to ensure the best solutions irrespective of size or location.