Originally printed in the March 2019 issue of Produce Business.

High-quality graphics, six-color printing and a push to sustainability help check all boxes.

The produce industry today expects its packaging to perform a soup-to-nuts range of functions. This is especially true of corrugated, of which some 7 percent of the 386 billion square feet of all U.S. shipments in 2017 is made into display-ready boxes or bins to carry produce, according to data from the Fibre Box Association, headquartered in Itasca, IL. On one hand, growers want the unit to be durable, functional, protect the product and ship it efficiently. Meanwhile, retailers — everyone from box stores to traditional supermarkets — look for sustainability, cost effectiveness, attention-grabbing graphics and the ability to drive sales of what’s inside.

“Stores are looking for displays that are cost effective and graphics that can draw in customers, while still able to protect the product and ship efficiently,” says Erika Nist, in corporate compliance, sustainability and marketing for SeaCa Packaging/The Seattle Tacoma Box Company, headquartered in Kent, WA.

Here’s a sampling of the latest on the corrugated produce bin and box front:

1. Georgia-Pacific LLC
Hummingbird Digital Print Solution
The Hummingbird digital print solution pairs the company’s corrugated package engineering capabilities with wide-format digital print, according to Alexis Sarris, marketing manager. “The end result is a high-quality, digitally printed corrugated package that is easier and faster to produce, as well as cost-effective for a broader range of applications such as bulk bins for produce.”

For example, Hummingbird worked with Savco, a Canadian-based produce marketer-distributor, to design and print a full-color, eye-catching bin for its H20 Melon brand. It was extremely well-received by Savco’s club customers. Stores that used to display no more than four to six bins of watermelons at a time are now assembling 18-bin displays of H20 Melon.

Savco is maximizing the flexibility of digital printing and working with Hummingbird to create new bin designs each season and going to market with multiple bin designs at a time. In the future, the company hopes to do even more with digital print, such as creating a design that is ‘built’ when multiple bins are displayed side by side and incorporating variable QR codes to facilitate GPS tagging.

2. Fruit Growers Supply Co.
Six-Color Printing Technology
Valencia, CA
The company recently developed a new grape box for the Moonlight Companies, a Reedley, CA-based stone fruit, grape and citrus grower. This new box was launched in October 2018. It was printed with the latest six-color printing technology. This box is meant for shipping and is also used for displaying in grocery stores.

“The Moonlight box is unique because we were able to completely replace the preprint process without losing any print quality,” says Jacob Thill, director of marketing and sales strategy. “The box is made up of 37 percent recycled paper, and because we were able to eliminate clay coating and varnishes, the cost and environmental impact are far less than before. Moonlight’s box is shipped locally and ready to display in stores.”

“The [Moonlight] box is made up of 37 percent recycled paper and because we were able to eliminate clay coating and varnishes, the cost and environmental impact are far less than before. ”

— Jacob Thill, Fruit Growers Supply Co.

3. Pratt Industries
High-graphic informational packaging
Conyers, GA
The great advantage of corrugated display ready containers (DRC) is the unmatched marketing and information-sharing opportunity that the box provides, according to Gregory Smith, agricultural packaging business development manager. “We know that variety specific information, taste characteristics/profiles, recipes and usage recommendations all provide lift at retail. These are all incredibly important elements that can be printed on our corrugated containers, along with a grower/shipper’s branding. Shoppers’ attention spans are so short these days; we only have milliseconds to differentiate our product from our surrounding competitors. The quickest and easiest way to do that is through packaging.”

The company manufactured the DRC used to merchandise the Georgia Juicys-brand of ripe peaches, grown and shipped by the Genuine Georgia Group, LLC.

4. SeaCa Packaging/The Seattle Tacoma Box Company
Bagged produce, high-graphic, display-ready carton
Kent, WA
Display-ready containers are trending in club stores, such as Sam’s Club and Costco, says Nist. “In 2017, we created a 23-inch by 14-inch by 10-inch DRC that allows packers to ship bagged produce like tree fruit, such as apples and pears, that is already in a high-graphic unit.”

The bagged produce is palletized in the DRC for shipment to retail stores. At the store, little or no labor is needed to set up the DRC.

5. Sambrailo Packaging
Sustainable ReadyCycle Packaging
Watsonville, CA
The intention to be a plastic packaging alternative and a sustainable solution for growers, retailers and consumers is what led the company to develop and launch its ReadyCycle-brand of packaging in 2017. The first item was a pint basket, an easily recognizable option to the plastic green. Sambrailo has since expanded its family of products to -pint for bushberries, 3-pack carry out trays for -pints and pints, and a 1-pound strawberry closed basket. There is no wax, no labels and no plastic components, making products in the brand completely recyclable in the existing corrugated recycling stream. All surfaces of ReadyCycle are printable, which significantly increases the branding and marketing real estate for customers to tell their story.

“We have growers and retailers packing cherry tomatoes, strawberries, figs, peppers, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries in ReadyCycle,” says Sara Lozano, marketing manager. “We hope to expand into apples, grapes, stone fruit, Brussels sprouts and much more fresh, bulk items.”