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Radish in paper for the French market

Europe is preparing legislation to shrink the plastic mountain; some countries, though, find that is happening too slowly. With France leading the way, they have already picked up the gauntlet. Dutch and Belgian fresh produce companies with customers in France, thus, have to adapt. For example, Dutch vegetable supplier Versland now packs its radishes in a paper flow pack designed by Argos.

On January 1st, 2022, the ban on selling various fruits and vegetables in plastic packaging under 1.5kg came into effect. That law has since been adjusted and tightened up. As of January 1 this year, there is no way around it. There are some exceptions, though: fully ripe fruit - where the risk of spoilage is too great - and 29 fruits and vegetables, including fresh herbs, some types of lettuce, asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli, and soft fruit. Meanwhile, for stone fruit, grapes, or cherry tomatoes, to name but a few, plastic punnets or cups are out of the question in France.

Packaging is possible on existing machines
Versland has been packaging radishes in paper bags instead of the familiar film for several months now. Those go to a French supermarket. "We got that request from France," begins Ed Koelewijn, "Retailers have to find alternatives to plastic. Then, of course, paper comes to mind. But that's not without its problems. Paper is more expensive and, it has to be said, takes longer to pack. A plus point is that we can use it on our existing machines, with minor adjustments. The trend is undeniable, so we already work with this type of packaging for other parties, too."

Visibility is vital
It is still too early for definite statements, but Ed hears, in general, that when fruit and vegetables are clearly visible - like in plastic packaging - they sell slightly better than when some of the product is hidden from view. "Still, the law is the law; there's no way around that. It would be easier if it were regulated at the European level, though. Currently, each country has its own regulations, which is tricky," he says.

Argos Packaging & Protection, the Dutch company that designed and produces this new flow pack, is well aware that visibility is vital. The bag of brown virgin paper with attractive full-color printing—in collaboration with Versland and the end customer, the packaging was designed to closely resemble the original plastic flow pack—leaves enough space for a cellulose window.

Test days
"We've been working on this product for more than two years," says Martijn Dammers, marketing manager at Argos. This company produces packaging and protective materials for various sectors, including ornamental horticulture, fresh produce, construction, retail, food, and non-food. "In 2022, on our test days, we built a network of parties interested in this product. Versland was one of those."

"Like other fruit and vegetable and packaging sector guests, they could package a sample they'd brought along on the vertical and horizontal packers displayed for the occasion," Martijn explains. Versland test-packaged radishes, took that along, scrutinized it, and closely monitored its shelf life performance over several days. A year later, they placed an order, and the paper flowpack packaging was delivered.

Good shelf life
"Versland's feedback was that the shelf life was similar to that of the plastic flow pack. In other countries, carrots and potatoes are packed in our FSC-certified paper flowpack packaging. There, tests show an improved shelf life. We always advise customers to do extensive testing first because each chain is different," says Miquel van den Ende, Sustainability and Innovation Specialist at Argos.

"We're currently in talks with various parties to test other products. This kind of material garnered plenty of attention at the trade show in Berlin. The interest is becoming increasingly concrete, not only from France, where legislation is reducing plastic but also from, for instance, Belgium. There, there's more demand from retailers and consumers themselves. If you want to get rid of plastic, you quickly opt for a paper version like this," Miquel concludes.

Argos' paper flow pack packaging is entirely recyclable and can go in the waste paper, as is the cellulose window. This sustainable mono packaging is a circular solution produced from a single raw material, greatly simplifying recycling.

Ed Koelewijn
[email protected]
Versland Selection
ABC Westland 641
2685 DH Poeldijk
+31(0)174 287 715
[email protected]

Argos Packaging & Protection
Nieuweweg 10
2675 BC Honselersdijk
Tel.: +31 (0)174 63 00 11
[email protected]