“Eat your fruits and vegetables,” says every mother everywhere. In fact, that resounding admonition has been echoed by parents, teachers, nutritionists, doctors and even governments for decades. In an era of drive-through, pre-packaged, grab-and-go food, getting enough green groceries in one’s diet can feel like a lot of work. Produce has to be purchased more frequently because it spoils. Much of it requires cleaning, cutting, refrigeration and sometimes specific cooking methods. While the banana and the baby carrot are fairly munch-able and portable, they still cannot be purchased weeks and stockpiled like most club store conveniences.
Nonetheless, consumers are looking for ways to squeeze in their recommended servings each day. A recent consumer survey conducted by the Produce for Better Health Foundation (pbhfoundation.org) showed that more than 80% of primary shoppers think it is important to eat fruits and vegetables. In fact, nearly as many shoppers said it was enjoyable to eat the healthier foods. However, when it comes to increasing their produce consumption, more consumers said they were concerned about spoilage in 2014 than in the two previous years of the survey. Half of those surveyed said they still don’t think they eat enough fruits and vegetables, and one in four considered eating produce a chore.
A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, cdc.gov) shows that U.S. children ages two to 18 have increased their consumption of whole fruit by 67% from 2003 to 2010, but, overall, consumption is still low. During that same time period vegetable intake showed no increase. The report reveals that from 2007 to 2010 60% of children did not eat the daily recommended portions of fruit and 93% did not eat the recommended portions of vegetables.
The research shows that consumers want to eat more produce, but lack of convenience and quick spoilage are holding them back. This is where packaging can make a difference for consumer lifestyles. More convenient packaging, grab and go packs and materials that extend shelf life can help consumers reach their consumption goals with less work and less waste.
Take it to go
Indianapolis Fruit Company (IFC) brand, Garden Cut, has released a new “To Go Snack” line of produce-based products along with new branding and label design for its pre-cut and ready-to-use products. The packaging received brighter brand colors. Purple and yellow replaced green, which was difficult to see against green produce. The more vibrant packages were redesigned to be more efficient on packaging lines.
“We are responding to the growing business segment of fresh-cut, more convenient product,” says Mike Mascari, owner of IFC. “By updating our brand labeling and packaging, we have made Garden Cut product easier to locate in a store’s produce department and in more convenient portion sizes for consumer use.”
According to IFC’s director of sales and marketing, John Cunningham, the new To Go Snack line has proven popular in convenience stores.
While make ahead lunch ideas abound on cooking blogs and Pinterest boards, many consumers do not have the time or the desire to plan and prepare all of their meals in advance. Even those who normally plan and make meals for themselves want healthy options for hurried days.
Ready Pac has launched two new product lines to help consumers eat healthy when they have no time to plan ahead. Ready Pac’s Bistro® Bowl™ salad line has been a proven success for the brand. Now, more restaurant menus have started offering texture-packed chopped salads that not only pack a variety of healthy ingredients, but also give consumers a flavorful, fun to eat experience. Ready Pac has expanded their current offering with new Bistro Chopped Salad bowls. These new salads are offered in various flavors and come conveniently packed in Ready Pac’s signature Bistro ready-to-eat single serve salad bowls.
Additionally, Ready Pac has taken on an entirely new market, packing plenty of vegetables into their new Bistro Bowl Wrap Kits. Sandwiches and wraps are a cornerstone of grab and go food, but unless consumers order them at a sandwich shop, those with veggies and sauces don’t hold up well. Ready Pac’s new Wrap Kits bring produce into the prepackaged sandwich market allowing consumers to feast on fresh ingredients in convenient packaging. The Ready Pak Wrap Kits offer vegetables, proteins and sauces all packed individually from the wrap itself. The compartmentalized packaging prevents the wrap from getting soggy and keeps everything fresh and flavorful.
While packaging ups the convenience of consuming fruits and vegetables, it also creates more waste. Packagers and consumers alike are concerned about the environmental impact of packaging. Several companies are developing innovative solutions. Fabri-Kal (fabri-kal.com) introduced a new line of mushroom tills made from high density polyethylene (HDPE). The tills, made from a blend of HDPE and calcium carbonate, uses 25% less plastic than the previous version from Fabri-Kal. The tills are designed to be more efficient for filling, wrapping and packaging, reducing labor and clean-up. Also, the mushroom tills are recyclable in communities that accept HDPE containers.
Sugar is commonly looked down upon when added to produce. However, Dutch potato supplier, Schaap Holland worked with Coveris (coveris.com) to move their potatoes to green PE packaging made from sugarcane. In addition to being a renewable resource, the sugarcane offers a more energy efficient cultivation process. It can also be processed, printed and recycled the same way as petrochemical PE.
From materials innovations that help protect the planet, to innovative packages that help bring fresh produce into busy lifestyles, packaging has the power to change how people eat. This is the kind of progress the legions of produce-pushing authority figures can get behind. It seems with each new package, consumers get closer to eating all of their fruits and vegetables and finally listening to their mothers.