Packaging? That is the last thing I think about when I see a juicy peach, a crisp head of lettuce or some vine ripened tomatoes. Yet, as a fruit trade professional you will have to spend a considerable amount of your time concerning yourself with fresh produce packing solutions, like or not.
The packaging questions gets raised at several levels. Firstly, the harvested produce does have to be transported from the field or orchard to the packhouse, market or store somehow. At the very least, growers therefore need to have bulk produce solutions at their disposal in order to initiate the first part of the journey.
Other fruits & vegetables are packed directly in the field and will arrive at their local retail destination in whatever they were in immediately after harvest. Export produce will need to be packed differently to produce destined for local markets.
Then there is the question - should you use returnable crates or one way cartons? Waxed cartons or just sturdy ones? And all this debate before a retailer comes along and stipulates the type of packaging he wants, thank you very much.
It does not stop there though. How should the packed container be identified? Does it need a GTIN Number? Would the retailer prefer a different ID code? How many different retailers do you supply? Will they all want a different Pack code?
And... can you actually send the same pack type to all your markets or will someone have an issue here?
The unfortunate reality is that just about anything to do with produce packing is seen to be part of the competitve mix by retailers which will assist them in differentiating from the competition. This can put growers into difficult positions. What if one retailer accepted his produce only in one specific returnable container design, but he nevertheless reserves the right to increase or decrease his pre-ordered quantity at short notice? Short enough, that the original amount of produce orderered by this retailer is already harvested and packed and waiting for dispatch?
This situation has growers either scrambling to repack produce from general use containers into retaler specific ones or the other way around, depending upon which way the order pendulum had swung.
By the way, this is NOT a hypthetical situation...
And then we get to the retail end of the equation and that truly is a right little "minefield" of options, opportunities, musts and must nots. Retail packaging, the way we present produce to customers at the point of sale, is mission critical and not paying attention to it equates to leaving money on table.