Packaging Serves a Purpose – Food Packaging #2
Shortly after posting my last blog topic on the wonder of having fresh organic strawberries available in the bleak of winter, I was made aware of an article relating to a study demonstrating the cost advantages of corrugated packaging over reusable plastic totes in the transportation of this fresh fruit. The study was commissioned by the Corrugated Packaging Alliance (CPA) in hopes to demonstrate corrugated’s cost advantages by touting that container recyclability feature over the reusability properties of totes which then have to be backhauled and cleaned. The reusable tote alliance (if there is one) may conduct their own study proving otherwise, but in the meantime here in the Midwest we still have our fresh strawberries, even while enduring one of the coldest winters in recent memory.
The RMIT study featured in my last blog focuses more on the potential role packaging could play in preventing waste, rather than on what packaging has done up to the present. The New South Wales (NSW) Department of Primary Industries undertook a trial to reduce the amount of bananas wasted from harvest to the consumer. Australia’s most consumed fruit, between 10-30% of bananas are wasted during the process for failing to meet customer specifications. The trial looked at several variables to solve the problem including improved packaging. Introducing cluster packaging, developing cartons that stacked bananas at 6 per layer, and using special paper for sap control were the innovations tried related to packaging specifically.
The primary transport problem, damage to the banana’s neck, was almost entirely eliminated because of the supply chain improvement processes. Stronger and higher shipping containers were used, along with packing the fruit into special bags rather than using liners.
Even after the success of the trial the authors stated that there is more that needs to be done. One idea being looked at is using reusable plastic totes. Maybe the study’s participants will check out the CPA study and just stick to corrugated. We will see.
One part of this study that really interested me was the author’s comprehensive list of packaging considerations that must be evaluated in the food packaging/processing chain. Deciding on the correct options requires strong packaging technical support. Even as an industry insider, I find the number of considerations and options available for packaging materials and structures to be almost overwhelming. Specifying a folding carton is a topic I will explore in my next blog.