There are encouraging and hopefully sustainable trends that continue to grow steadily. The demand for ecological packaging, ideally biodegradable, continues to be of great interest for the German and European market. We spoke to Thomas Däbel, managing director of packaging specialist SERWO LLC, about moving away from plastic for fruit and vegetable packaging.
At last year's Fruit Logistica, the SERWO team was present at the Dinopol booth.
"For trays, carrier bags and other service packaging, cardboard and wood pulp are becoming more popular, generally materials that disappear again in nature. This is where our focus lies," Däbel notes. "This high demand is creating a capacity bottleneck in the European paper market."
Increasingly, he says, people are switching to paper for packaging fruit and vegetables, in Germany in particular. This is also noticeable in the production, he said. "Fortunately, we anticipated this development and are well connected- which means we can continue to supply our customers without any problems. But overall, we are noticing that delivery times are getting longer and there are inevitably price adjustments due to the enormous demand."
Pilot project: sealable groundwood trays
For SERWO, 2021 will be all about sealable wood pulp trays, which are already being tested with growers and food retailers. "We had to do a lot of trial and error, test different materials and machines, and clarify requirements with retailers. Processing speed is very important for sealing."
The final result was a team effort with Frutania: "Together with Frutania, we optimized the design of the groundwood tray so that it is now ready for the market!
Having a partner with this expertise in marketing was extremely important for us in the implementation. Soft fruits in small units are our sample products, so blueberries, raspberries or blackberries. In the end, we achieved a sealing speed comparable to PET sealing, thanks to a special film that holds very well permanently on wood pulp materials." The first tests with organic blueberries in 125g trays began last year at the first full-range retailers, and the sealable groundwood trays have also been on the shelves in discount stores since the end of 2020 in various sample stores. "The tests are currently being evaluated and we naturally hope that the product will be well received and placed with retailers and consumers!"
"Retailers have has recognized the developments"
Däbel is confident about establishing new, more sustainable packaging solutions: "We know that it works and that the demand is there. What's needed now is implementation in food retail."
Retailers now have the chance to be innovative, he said, because the ball has already started rolling: "We notice that consumers are becoming more aware of their impact on the environment. The whole chain is responding to this, from producers to retailers." A big factor, he says, is still present in the form of pricing: "Of course, a groundwood bowl is a bit more pricey, but plastic prices are also really skyrocketing. The premium for more sustainable materials is becoming more relative. Ultimately, it's a commitment to change - you just have to take the leap."