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The Sustainability Tug-Of-War

Thursday, 5 October 2017 | Posted in Industry Issues by Renee Harrison

There is a significant challenge ahead for fresh produce businesses to balance consumer demand for convenience with growing concern for environmental issues. Consumers want top quality products, convenient pre-prepared options and safe, healthy produce bursting with flavour. At the same time, consumers want companies to focus on sustainability, for example preventing food waste or using reusable or biodegradable packaging.

Cut, washed and pre-prepared packaged fresh produce is firmly established as a popular option for consumers. Not only is it convenient, but also extends shelf life and protects the product. However, as demand for environmentally-friendly packaging grows, the challenge will be to find economically viable and sustainable solutions.

Innovations in packaging have a clear potential to reduce food waste but consumers are generally sceptical about packaging in the fresh category. Food packaging is so ingrained in our everyday lives that it's hard to imagine life without it. The issue is that a substantial amount of food packaging is not reused or recycled making it a liability to our environment. As a result, there is a significant amount of research going into developing eco-friendly alternatives however the higher price tag on these options is often a deterrent for businesses.

One of the simplest of solutions is to sell loose produce and reusable bags however branded packaging plays an important role in expanding a company’s visibility. It allows businesses to innovate and increase the value of their products. Branded packaging also plays a significant role in consumer education whether that be by communicating the nutritional benefits of a product or offering serving suggestions. Brand owners also have an opportunity to educate the consumer by explaining the positive impacts of packaging on reducing food waste and extending shelf life. In this case, branding can help to shift the perception that some packaging is unnecessary and wasteful.

Fresh produce packaging is here to stay, at least for now. There is a role for packaging to play in delivering usable and convenient fresh produce to consumers, with improved quality, freshness and longer shelf-life while reducing waste and increasing consumption. The demand for businesses to reduce environmentally unfriendly packaging is a complicated economical proposition yet consumers are pushing for businesses to invest in environmentally sustainable initiatives. As more research and development into practical alternatives continues, it’s clear that the future doesn’t need to be a tug-of-war between sustainability and business bottom line. Sustainability doesn’t have to be a cost of doing business; it can be a catalyst for innovation, open new markets, and lead to financial success. Which leaves the questions; what are you doing to tap into this opportunity?
 

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