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Keeping growers competitive with paper-based packaging solutions

Germany: Six trends in fruit and vegetable packaging

Consumers are more concerned than ever about what they eat and where their food comes from, writes Sebastian Mnich, product manager Fruit and Vegetable Packaging at Schumacher Packaging GmbH. The growing demands in terms of health, sustainability and organic production determine not only what customers eat but also the purchasing behavior of modern consumers. At the same time, the variety of food products is increasing enormously - there are also constantly changing breeds and new varieties in the fruit and vegetables sector. Along with these changes, the packaging requirements are changing as well. Schumacher Packaging, specialist in corrugated and solid board packaging, shows us six trends in fruit and vegetable packaging and shows how producers can gain a competitive advantage through sustainable and promotional printed packaging.

Trend 1: Sustainability along the supply chain
Eco is in! The desire for sustainable food ranges from production, up the value chain, into the kitchen. Packaging plays an important role throughout the supply chain - in terms of freshness and protection of the goods, quality and labeling. Corrugated cardboard or full cardboard packaging is not only nearly 100 percent recyclable, but it is also made from renewable raw materials, which has a positive impact on the CO2 balance. In addition, such packaging is much more natural than plastic and is rightly perceived by consumers as sustainable and environmentally friendly. For this reason, supermarkets and discounters are increasingly using cardboard instead of plastic in the packaging of fruit and vegetables, as in the case of cherry tomatoes, for example, which are increasingly available today packed in printed corrugated board trays.

Trend 2: Promoting the regional character
Many growers already know that in the case of fruit and vegetables, the regional origin of the products is even more important to consumers than biological or ecological considerations or fair trade guarantees. This was again confirmed by the study "Fruits and Vegetables 2016" by market research institute Mafowerk. The downside: Regional products are not available year-round in Germany. As a result, more and more German producers are growing their fruits and vegetables in greenhouses. For consumers, this means for example that in November there are still strawberries from Franconia - instead of Peru. On the one hand, for the growers, this means a longer season and thus a competitive advantage over fruit and vegetable suppliers from abroad. On the other hand, smaller farms also have to learn to play their regional trump card: their own name, logo and, of course, the region should be printed directly on the packaging. Packaging of cardboard or corrugated board is particularly suitable here because of the good printability of the material. And this is how regional producers stand out from their competitors in Italy, Spain and so on.

Trend 3: Optimum advertising effect through a variety of printing processes
In order to effectively bring advertising messages and important product information to the packaging, gowers should collaborate with an experienced advertising agency, which in turn closely cooperates with the packaging manufacturer who ultimately manages the printing of the packaging. He also competently advises which printing method best suits the planned porduct and its specific requirements: flexographic, offset or digital printing. In all the printing methods mentioned above, it is possible to resort to food-compatible inks in order to exclude pollution of the product by the printing inks.

Trend 4: Flexibility and proximity in terms of logistics
High-yield harvests, lean harvests, a short-term harvest time or the sudden increase in demand for regional produce due to trade promotions - in the fruit and vegetable sector, flexibility is extremely important. As a result, growers should source their packaging from a regional supplier who offers flexible delivery times, variable purchase quantities and who offers to store the packaging until harvest time. Regardless of the material, a packaging manufacturer from the region or at least from Germany ensures sustainability in the supply chain.

Trend 5: New packaging sizes and shapes
Changes in the shape and size of fruits and vegetables also require adaptation of the packaging. For example, the so-called small farmer’s cucumbers have already displaced the well-known larger cucumbers, and the trend continues towards still smaller specimens: the even smaller snack cucumbers. This also means that the size of the primary packaging, for example a vegetable tray for the snack variant of the classic cucumber, as well as secondary packaging and packaging units must be adapted to this trend.

Trend 6: Changed material requirements
Foods that are shrink-wrapped in plastic could be rated worse in their actual quality than goods in an open cardboard box. However, paperboard fruit and vegetable packaging is particularly complex due to the moisture of the packaged products. For example, cucumbers are packaged in cellophane, favouring their shelf life, before they enter the vegetable rack. Alternatively, growers may provide fruit and vegetable trays with special paper grades or coatings that prevent moisture from entering the carton. An important role in material selection also plays a role in how fruit and vegetables are stored across the supply chain, for example in cold stores, during the transport route, and for which period of time.

Conclusion: Do not go without an experienced packaging expert
Many growers do not have the resources to deal with
the current fruit and vegetables packaging trends to achieve an individual benefit. Expert support for the many details to be considered here is provided by an experienced packaging expert, who will advise the agricultural producer on the individual choice of the right packaging for their own fruit and vegetable varieties. (Image: Sebastian Mnich)

For more information:
Schumacher Packaging GmbH
Werk Ebersdorf
Friesendorfer Straße 4
96237 Ebersdorf / DEUTSCHLAND
Telephone: +49 9562 383-0
Fax: +49 9562 383-299

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