The push for healthy eating means consumers increasingly want to follow a balanced diet with a wide variety of foods. As demand for fresh produce in our daily diet has increased, fruit and vegetable packaging has evolved technically and aesthetically.
Peeled, cut and packaged fruit, as well as whole packaged fruit, are live foods, and the chemical and biological processes that they undergo require specific packaging solutions. Packaging must respond to the way people consume these products not just on a technical level but in terms of how the design facilitates consumption.
Let’s examine some of the unique characteristics of fruit and vegetable packaging and look at the solutions available:
REGULATION OF OXYGEN CONTENT
As already mentioned, fruit and vegetables undergo a process of respiration. Therefore, it is vital that the oxygen and carbon dioxide generated by the product’s metabolism are balanced to ensure it remains in an optimal state. A good aroma and water vapour barrier will prevent the product from drying out or degrading.
Just as the product must be contained in a protective atmosphere to keep it fresh, stagnation of liquids and a build-up of mist on the inner surfaces of the plastic must also be prevented. Condensation on plastic film can reduce the useful life of the product, not to mention damaging the brand image of the company in question. What is more, the end customer may have a negative consumption experience and rethink their decision to buy next time.
FOOD ITEMS OF UNEQUAL SIZE AND SHAPE
Though manufacturing, and specifically food production, is becoming increasingly standardised, there’s no escaping that each individual vegetable or piece of fruit is unique. Compare the manufacturing of screws, for example, to cultivating strawberries or packaging broccoli florets for freezing.
Fruit and vegetable packaging must accommodate the characteristics of the product and the inherent variations in item size and shape. Flexible films or thermoformable trays, for example, are designed with these characteristics in mind to ensure the product stays in an optimal state.
READY-TO-EAT AND ON-THE-GO
If we look at meat products, we know that the packaging is likely to be opened in a kitchen while someone is cooking. When it comes to peeled and chopped baby carrots, however, these might be used in a salad or consumed straight from the packet as a mid-morning office snack. A company that produces salads might even employ two packaging solutions for the same product: a salad bag for the kitchen, and a salad tray for an on-the-go snack.
As these examples illustrate, the moment of consumption and the context is more variable for fruit and vegetables than for products that need to be cooked first. The packaging sector has wasted no time in responding to these circumstances with solutions that enable products to be opened and consumed on-the-go or without cutlery, and can even be sealed and saved for later.
MICROWAVEABLE PRODUCTS AND HOT-FILL
The changes in consumption highlighted above have also led to the development of products which can be cooked in their packaging. Vegetables and tubers such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and others can be steamed in the microwave.
The plastics for packaging these products and hot-fill ready meals must be able to withstand high temperatures.
SPECIFIC PACKAGING SOLUTIONS FOR FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
The unique characteristics of fruit and vegetables and the rapid changes in this market segment were soon supported by new plastics formulations and materials specifically designed for each type of product.
At SP Group, we have developed three specific solutions:
- OPP PE: A Double-layer flexible material with good mechanical properties. Its composition of biaxially oriented polypropylene brings gloss and transparency to the printed packaging.
- APET: A high quality thermoformable material with high transparency enabling the product to stand out.
- OPP PP: A double-layer flexible material with good mechanical properties and optional anti-static. Available in transparent, gloss or opaque finishes.
Our four printing systems cater to each industry enabling you to customise your packaging so that it stands out on the supermarket shelves. To find out more about SP Group’s solutions and trends in the sector, subscribe to our newsletter.