by Jeffrey Brandenburg
Technology as a marketing tool
When the industry thinks of marketing and branding with respect to packaging the first aspect which comes to mind is graphics, artwork, printing and advertising. Certainly there are numerous companies, campaigns and even industries that are involved in the visual branding and marketing of fresh cut produce. The importance of graphics and visualization of the packaged product on the retails shelf cannot be over stated; however this is only part of the “total branding and marketing package” if you will. Technology can in fact be just as effective in branding and marketing fresh produce.
As important as graphic appeal is, there is no substitute for the freshness safety and quality of the produce itself as a branding advertising and marketing tool. Since packaging technology is one of the key sciences, along with postharvest physiology, behind optimizing fresh produce quality and shelf life; one can make the argument that packaging technology is not only a science but also a branding and marketing tool.
As has been previously discussed by the author modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) when combined with proper post-harvest handling procedures and temperature control management can have a positive impact on the quality and shelf life of fresh produce. Specifically reducing O2 concentrations below about 10% around many fresh fruits and vegetables slows their respiration rate and indirectly slows the rates at which they ripen, age and decay. In addition reducing the O2 concentration can, in some cases, reduce oxidative browning reactions which can be of particular concern in precut leafy vegetables.
Elevated CO2 can, like reduced O2, slow respiration thereby extending shelf life; although the effects of elevated CO2 on respiration are not as dramatic as those of low O2 (Kader et al., 1988). CO2 at relatively high concentration (> 10%) has been shown to suppress the growth of a number of decay-causing fungi and bacteria. However too much CO2 can be damaging to plant tissues and individual fruits and vegetables differ in their tolerance to CO2. In other words just by its impact on the gas levels within the package proper MAP certainly can be viewed as an effective marketing and branding tool.
Science and Technology
However today produce packaging can provide much more than just internal atmosphere modification. If we think of MAP as a technology platform by which we can attach additional fundamental sciences and technologies we can begin to see the full benefit of produce packaging technology. Some of the technologies that are currently being actively pursued, developed and commercialized include:
- Antimicrobial packaging
- Breathable rigid containers
- Liquid, humidity, high WVTR management packaging
- Peelable resealable packaging
- Active gas modification packaging
- Nanotechnology incorporated into packaging
- Ethylene management
- Unique size and geometry packaging
- Package gas transmission rate quantification( including perforations)
- Sustainable Packaging
Although many of these technologies have been around and certainly have been discussed for some time there have been new breakthroughs and developments which elevate to a new level the capabilities and possibilities of todays produce modified atmosphere package.
Incorporation of these new technologies into produce packaging will allow not only for the overall optimization of quality and shelf life but also be able to attack specific challenges currently faced by the industry.
- Chill chain management
- Purge management
- Whole produce packaging
- Food Safety
- Ethylene management
- Floral products
- Packaging throughout the supply chain
- Sustainable Packaging
- Global Ocean transport
If you truly want to optimize the marketing and branding of your produce items then be sure to look beyond the graphics of the packaging and incorporate into your produce development process the latest in packaging science and technology. The synergy of packaging science in combination with graphics will provide an ultimate package to optimize, protect, display and market your current produce offerings.
Even more exciting is the possibility to access different segments of the marketplace; new types of packaging and possibly even produce items and varieties not currently packaged. In addition you can use the graphics, artwork and design of the package to communicate the benefits of the incorporated science and technology.
Bottom line the synergies of combining graphics and artwork with packaging science and technology will far exceed the marking and branding potential of each effort separately.
Jeffrey Brandenburg of The JSB Group, firstname.lastname@example.org and Deirdre Holcroft of Holcroft Postharvest Consulting, Manuel Madrid of Fruit Profits, and David Barney of Geofresh, are the founding members of the Global Fresh Technology Group. They, along with our partner Halden packaging in South Africa work with leading edge packaging and postharvest science and technology companies to bring state of the art packaging, postharvest, and food safety expertise to the global fresh produce market.