“Sustainability is part of our everyday lives and this is a good thing,” says Duncan Jones with Sinclair. Like many companies, the label manufacturer is focused on continuous improvement to reduce the consumer’s impact on the environment. “Our goal is to make Sinclair products, services, and day-to-day processes increasingly sustainable,” he adds. The launch of the updated Sinclair EcoLabel® in 2019 was a significant step for the company and the industry. It was the result of ten years of development and meant that for the first time a fully compostable fruit label with an 'OK compostable – Industrial' and 'Seedling' certified construction was offered. “We couldn’t have achieved this without close collaboration with our customers and our supply chain partners,” mentioned Jones.
In many markets, produce labeling legislation is being formed. In other markets, the conversation has yet to begin. Sinclair keeps a close eye on legislative developments related to the use of fresh produce labels around the world. Currently, the EU and Oceania regions are ahead in their desire for sustainable solutions, but other regions will soon follow due to increasing consumer awareness.
Legislation change in one market can, and will, impact other markets. The most current example of this is the French legislation banning fruit and vegetable labels unless they are home compostable, and wholly or partially bio-based. This legislation comes into effect on January 1, 2022. It will affect the labeling of produce in France and fruit and vegetables imported to be sold in France. It’s important to note that this legislation does not impact fruits and vegetables exported from France to other markets unless, of course, the destination market has its own legislation affecting fresh produce labeling.
In Belgium, the Government of Flanders has passed legislation banning fruit and vegetable labels unless the label is functional, has legally required information, or is certified as home compostable.
“The situation is fluid and there are many facets to consider,” commented Jones. Other markets may follow suit with legislation that, either directly or indirectly, bans the non-compostable fruit stickers. In the US, for instance, proposed legislation was recently introduced by the Senate for review.
The value of fruit labels
A fruit label is designed as an essential tool for fruit and vegetable produce identification as it allows for product tracking, retail management and provides consumer product data (origin, variety, etc.), brand differentiation, and product trust. “A fruit label adds value in a variety of ways for both consumers and retailers. It is also one of the smallest, and most cost-effective, retail communication methods available.”
“At Sinclair, we will remain at the forefront of advocating positive change for a sustainable future for fruit labels,” Jones shared. Sinclair is working with industry bodies including PMA, CPMA, IFPS, United Fresh, and Freshfel Europe. “We recognize our responsibility to be sustainable and also want to ensure that the practical value of labeling to consumers, retailers, and growers is understood.”
Home compostable fruit label development
“As a leader in our industry since 1982, we constantly develop the science of food-safe fruit labels.” Since 2008, Sinclair has been working closely with customers in championing the development of a sustainable fruit label. As requirements and technology have evolved, so have the company’s compostable label solutions. There are challenges to overcome, the scarcity of suitable and effective adhesives for home composting products perhaps being the
Sinclair’s goal is to provide customers with a high-quality label (and labeling system) that performs as closely as possible to the company’s current label range. “In reality, this is not immediately possible for a home compostable fruit label. The varying complexities of the
packinghouse environment (temperature, humidity, packing line configuration) and the wide variety of fruit skin types, present unique challenges for label conformity and adhesion.”
Due to these complexities, it can take up to three to five years to develop, test, and certify an effective compostable label construction. Will Sinclair have a home compostable fruit label by January 1, 2022? Yes. Sinclair EcoLabel HOME™ is a partially bio-based product that will hold certification against OK compost - HOME from TUV Austria. “We hope to achieve OK compost - HOME certification in a matter of weeks and have commenced Sinclair EcoLabel HOME™ field trials with customers.” At this early stage, performance is expected to be lower than the OK compost -Industrial certified Sinclair EcoLabel®. The home compostable fruit label field trials will provide more data to understand label performance as well as development pathways for different fruit and vegetable types.
Compact Pattern Labeler.
The next generation of home compostable labels
‘Phase one’ of the development will deliver a home compostable label to meet French legislation in January 2022. In parallel, the company is also working on 'Phase two', addressing the challenges in Phase one so the performance of compostable labels is akin to that of the company’s current label range. ‘Phase two’ is seen as the next generation of home compostable fruit labels. As this article is being written, Sinclair is moving closer to launching a home compostable label. “The deadline for the French legislation is not far away but we’re excited with OK compost certification of Sinclair EcoLabel HOME™ just around the corner,” Jones finished.