There’s Treasure In Every Innovation

With the focus on innovations in Product, Packaging and Process, PRODUCE BUSINESS presents 10 top-scoring entrants to this year’s competition and leaves it up to the industry to decide which item merits the Annual Joe Nucci Award for Product Innovation.  After scrolling through the entries below, readers can vote for their top 3 innovations by completing the ballot webform at the bottom of the page.

The top-scoring innovation will be presented at the New York Produce Show and Conference VIRTUAL EVENT on December 9–11.

The diverse bounty of this year’s entries in the Fourth Annual PRODUCE BUSINESS Innovation Awards contest could impressively enliven the judges on ABC’s television show Shark Tank. There was a great mixture of new commodities, new flavors, new packaging, processing and technology that would excite any judge looking for the newest innovations to increase overall produce sales. The judging, which took place in the Boca Raton, FL, offices of PRODUCE BUSINESS, was conducted by editors and staff who are well-versed in the fresh produce industry. Each item was thoroughly examined, unwrapped, smelled, tasted and, in some cases, cooked. Technological examinations were via research in published journals and in corroborating data sent to us.

Unlike Shark Tank, there will be no celebrity judges involved with the task of selecting the ultimate winner – only PRODUCE BUSINESS readers will evaluate the top-scoring products selected from numerous entries. Please read the descriptions below and cast your vote below to choose this year’s Joe Nucci Award.


Stemilt Growers
Wenatachee, WA

The Farm + Famous Paper Tote Bag is designed graphically to highlight the importance of work farmers. The tote is  100% recyclable and features the How2Recycle labeling on the bottom to help shoppers know how to recycle the package. It is packed in a display-ready Euro box with an earthy design, and each bag holds up to 4 lbs. of apples. Each Euro holds 8 bags and offers ease at checkout for both the cashier and consumer.

Stemilt is packing and shipping these totes ready to display in the Euro cartons, which reduces handling by shoppers and retailers. This approach also boosts the average bulk purchase size for apples helping to sell larger volumes of fruit at per lb. price.

Many grocery store trips are taking place online through a digital platform or quick in-person shopping pick-up. This package is premeditated to make the decision-making process painless for the consumers – a grab-and-go, sustainable package with high quality fruit that will leave them with a delightful eating experience. The Farm + Famous Tote Bag program is currently available for both conventional and organic apple varieties.



Coquitlam, BC Canada

Bagasse tree-free packaging aligns with the growing consumer demand for eco-friendly packaging that is recyclable, minimizes landfill waste, greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation. Oppy partnered with British Columbia-based CanePak Paperboard Inc., to create an innovative packaging solution for KeeWee Kiwifruit brand, using Bagasse-based packaging featuring vegetable-based inks.

Bagasse fibers are a byproduct of sugarcane production and, as a result, the KeeWee pack utilizes an existing agricultural waste stream that requires no new materials, no additional cultivation areas, and has no impact on existing forest areas. It requires less chemical processing than tree-based pulp, reducing its environmental impact even further. The Bagasse packaging concept is also home-compostable in as little as four weeks under the right conditions.

In addition to the environmental benefits, the KeeWee Bagasse pack is practical as well, being strong enough to hold 6 pieces of fruit in its one-pound clamshell configuration (using the preferred fruit size of 36/39/42). It can also easily fit into existing store displays by being stackable like typical one-pound kiwifruit clamshells. Consumers are able to inspect the fruit quality prior to purchase through an opening at the top of the pack, a key consideration for many.



Mastronardi Produce
Kingsville, ON, Canada

Produce snacking is sweet and convenient with these golden jewels. On-the-vine snacking tomatoes, led by SUNSET Bombs, is the fastest growing Snacking Tomato segment, up 70% year over year.

Mastronardi is thrilled to offer a 4th addition to the lineup of Bombs snacking tomatoes. Sweet like candy and the color of sunshine, Lolli Bombs rock an explosive level of flavor.

Retailers can colorfully enhance the produce snacking display by merchandising Lolli Bombs. The bright and playful branding helps to reinforce the message that these tomatoes are a sweet, healthy treat. Consumers are drawn to the label’s beautiful gold-foil details, giving the product a premium look.



Mucci Farms
Kingsville, ON, Canada

Since environmental concerns are at the forefront of global conversation, sustainability for packaged goods has taken on a greater emphasis. Mucci Farms developed a Paper Top Seal package, an innovative amendment to an existing container, which reduces plastic and maintains the integrity of the original package, including high impact graphics for merchandising appeal.

This package replaces the plastic lidding film with a paper film, which allows the PET tray and lid to be 100% fully recyclable. This format maximizes shelf life and helps consumers limit trips to the grocery store, which is an additional benefit amid the COVID-19 pandemic.



Grimmway Farms / Cal-Organic Farms
Arvin, CA

Washed, cut and ready to eat from the bag, these Rainbow Carrot Chips remove the guilt from the snacking tradition of dipping chips. Their ridged edges and flexible flat surface capture a favorite dipping item, all while being low-calorie and fat-free. An excellent source of vitamin A, the carrot mixture features a blend of purple, orange, white and yellow chips.  

Cal-Organic’s new rainbow carrot chip product is positioned for retail carrot sets in a 12-ounce, resealable pack. With shoppers making fewer trips to stores, but preparing more of their meals and snacks at home, rainbow carrot chips are a great option as the resealable bag makes it easy to store 3 to 4 servings without taking much room in the fridge. Available year-round, rainbow carrot chips are also sold in 5-pound bulk bags for foodservice. Beyond a quick snack or pairing with dip, Cal-Organic rainbow carrot chips are suitable for culinary applications of all kinds.



Duiven, Geldeerland, Netherlands

OneThird’s handheld scanners can predict the shelf life of fresh produce in under one second. The root of many types of food loss and waste is a lack of objectivity in the supply chain. By knowing the shelf life, it is more efficient when making decisions on where to ship different batches, which items to display and how to price items.

For online grocery, retailers have had to increase their quality standards because of customer complaints. With OneThird’s solution, retailers can gain an edge in online grocery sales because they can ensure all outgoing produce meets a minimum freshness level. This shelf life data is stored in a cloud platform and can be analyzed for future improvements.

Suppliers can also use this technology to ensure what they are sending is high quality. By connecting the supply chain, vertically integrated businesses can prevent food loss and waste, reduce the associated costs, and improve the freshness of their produce.



Richmond, VA

Tomato packing in 100% plastic-free packaging is made very easy with the JASA Sleever. Automatic sleeving of cardboard trays and punnets as an alternative to single-use plastics makes the consumers — as well as marketing and sales and packaging operations of produce packers — very happy.

JASA is an authority when it comes to pre-glued sleeve technique. The Sleever is customizable to specific needs and available with one or two belts. With an ROI of less than a year, the Sleever is compact and energy-efficient. Other features include: 100% plastic-free, fully recyclable, great brand recognition on the packaging, flexibility for many punnet sizes on one machine, ease of ability to switch to another punnet size within two minutes, and it’s incredibly fast.



Food Solutions SA de DV
Apodaca, NL, Mexico

Consumers have many options of products made from coconut, but most people just drink the water and often don’t have the patience to extract the coconut meat. This ready-to-eat product is the white flesh inside a coconut.

The vacuum-sealed, bag-in-a-bowl presentation enables consumers to easily eat and enjoy the coconut. Cut the bag, pour the coconut meat into the bowl and eat plain or add toppings such as fruit. Coconut meat is rich in fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. Coconut contains about 89% of fat in its meat, but these fats are considered medium-chain triglycerides — so coconut is a good source of energy.

Retailers merchandising immunity-boosting produce might include this product in the display because coconut meat contains oil that it is a good source of lauric acid, which is reported to help improve immunity since it has  antiviral, antifungal, and tumor-suppressing properties.

Consumers will appreciate the convenience of not having to wield a machete to render the fresh coconut meat – which too often is only enjoyed during beach holidays. The convenience of this healthy tropical, snack-anywhere product is highly appealing.



Sun Sugar Farms
Verona, KY

When this small commercial farmer of sustainably grown sun sugar cherry tomatoes couldn’t find a viable alternative to plastic clamshells, she invented one. The Sustainable Produce Container fits in the same footprint as clamshells, but the structure is stronger: the square design allows the containers to be stacked higher than clamshells and to withstand more weight. Customers really seem to appreciate the strength and beauty of the box and sometimes save them for other uses.

The container’s lid is designed to stay firmly closed, but a consumer can open it like an egg carton to preview the product. The original design features two ways to lock the tabs by sliding them into the wall or poking in the moon tab. The machine-formable design features an anchor lock lid and partial cut glue pull areas for growers wanting to reduce store shrinkage.

To avoid waste, the container is strong enough to survive the trip from farm to store and then to a customer’s home. Made out of KraftPak paperboard, the containers are reversible between a natural brown and Aquakote white. This sustainable material easily biodegrades in a backyard compost pile and is 100% recyclable by any center in America that accepts cardboard. The containers also can eliminate labels since all sides can be printed in single or full color. Plus the containers ship flat, saving on shipping costs and space.

For organic growers, the uniqueness of the Sustainable Produce Container not only aligns with their values but helps them sell more product beyond competitors using traditional packaging.



Mastronardi Produce
Kingsville, ON, Canada

Packaged mixed peppers are growing in popularity at nearly twice the rate of bulk peppers. On top of that, consumers are continually looking to add more flavor and variety to their dishes at home and are excited to try gourmet, unique items. Wild Wonders long sweet peppers offer the ultimate in taste and convenience, giving consumers a variety of colors and flavors in each pack.

Retailers can promote the portability to shoppers as the peppers are sold in a convenient bag with a handle design for quick and easy grabbing off store shelves. Featuring an an incredibly sweet flavor with no bitter after-taste, Wild Wonders long sweet peppers are available in a mix of red, yellow, orange and chocolate. Ideal for stuffing, grilling, and slicing, the peppers have virtually no seeds.

“Innovation Award” Voting Ballot (2020)