A Perspective on Packaging and the Fresh Produce Industry

By: Joan Macdougal - June 22, 2018


Packaging: The Fresh Produce Industry and Plastics.

 

Macrison actively promotes the consumption of fresh produce for a number of our clients. I recently attended the 2018 Horticultural Conference in Brisbane. Like most people, I was there to network and grow my business. As I had hoped, there was an enormous focus on the environment and packaging. The growers of fresh produce are more acutely aware of the harm being done to our environment than probably any other industry. They live and breath climate change every day. The noise being generated by media and consumers was top of mind. In fact, the conference theme was… “Double Productivity – Halve Waste.” Highly admirable given the issues being faced by this essential industry.

When the topic of packaging was explored at the conference though, you could almost feel a sense of guilt and fear. From where I sit, that should not be the mindset of our growers. If the world looked at the waste problem in its entirety, it would be arguing that our fruit and veg producers should be embracing responsible packaging in order to minimise waste.

The conference highlighted just how focused our fresh produce industry is on getting people eating more fruit and vegetables. They are, after all, the food source nature intended for humanity. Our growers are looking to be innovative, creative and environmentally responsible as they compete to drag the consumer away from unhealthy alternatives. Our fresh produce industry competes with massive FMCG players who pump single-use plastics into the world in frightening numbers. Despite this, the media, Greenpeace and others see Fresh Produce as an easy target for public shaming. In my opinion, this shaming is incredibly damaging. Going after the fresh produce industry for packaging will actually have a negative impact on any long-term resolutions to global waste.

 

A Helicopter View Of Fresh Produce Packaging:

 

Waste Comes in Many Forms –

 

Mass consumerism has many unpalatable by-products. There is no doubt that the use of plastics and packaging should be heavily scrutinized. However, as the world awakes to the impact of mass consumerism it is essential that the issues are addressed with perspective and equity.

So let’s explore waste, did you know that 33% of fresh produce grown is wasted?

 

Packaging Waste
Image Sourced from Navico Global

 

Did you also know that environmentally responsible packaging could reduce this food waste significantly?

 

Packaging - watermelon
Image Sourced from Navico Global

 

In this sample, a mother can buy a piece of watermelon which she can place in a child’s lunchbox. The reasons this is great for overall waste management are:

  • By not having to buy a full melon there is less likelihood of food waste
  • Far better that someone eats watermelon pre-packed than a piece of chocolate also in packaging
  • Food safety and environmental protection is heavily researched and applied in all fresh produce packaging

 

Feeding Humankind is getting Harder –

 

The world’s population is growing at an unprecedented rate. Our ability to feed everyone without robbing the world of limited, precious resources is one of the greatest challenges we face. Firstly we need to feed people properly. If people are not eating a balanced diet of fruit and vegetables the health consequences and costs to society are incomprehensible. Fruit and vegetables are perishable items so we need to be able to extend shelf life and move produce around the world safely. To do this requires packaging. Whether we like it or not, food safety is incredibly important and environmentally responsible packaging will ensure we can better provide safe food all across the world.

 

The Answer Lies In Innovative and Responsible Packaging:

 

Every industry needs to be responsible when it comes to plastics in packaging and here’s a great example of the innovative packaging being explored in the fresh produce industry.

 

Avocado packaging
Image Source – GatorEggs

The packaging is fully recyclable. It extends shelf life by minimising produce damage and the package also allows for more produce information. Using packaging to provide information on ways to store and varities of ways to consume food will also help to minmise waste.

I would much prefer to see shoppers walking out the door with these packs of avocados than a six-pack of plastic Coke bottles

 

Coke Packaging
Coke is taking steps to reduce its plastic footprint

 

Waste Management:

 

Plastics ending up in our oceans and harming marine life is unforgivable. Where we have to live in a world that requires plastics in packaging, and we do, industry alone can not prevent where the packaging finishes up. It’s up to the end user, the consumer.

It pleases me to see consumers becoming more aware of waste management. On this front, there is still a long way to go. In the meantime, rather than shaming farmer’s perhaps we can challenge the world’s innovators to use robotics and AI to better capture and process plastics in the waste management process.

I will close with this final comment. Fresh produce farmers are determined to double production and halve waste across every facet of their production. They will continue to go about it without a lot of fuss and noise. I think it it’s important that while holding them to account for the use of plastics we keep it in perspective with the other waste and supply challenges the industry faces.

 

About The Author:

 

Joan - The author

Joan MacDougal is the founder and owner of Macrison Co Pty Ltd. Prior to Macrison, Joan held senior roles at both American Express and Telstra. With 30 years of front-line marketing, advertising and communications experience, Joan brings honesty and perspective to her views on better marketing, communications and advertising. Visit Joan’s website www.joanmacdougal.com to get to know Joan a little better. For more information on our work in the Fresh Produce Industry – click here

 

References:

 

Hortcon Conference 2018

Navico Global

Visy

PMA Australia NZ

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