Paper Innovation in Produce Packaging

GPI Tomato Punnet

In the movement from plastics to paper, consumers are demanding more sustainable solutions in produce packaging. In fact, more than 14.5 million tons of single-use plastic containers and packaging were generated in 2018, according to the EPA. About 69% of these ended up in landfills. Here’s how the makers of paper packaging are tackling this movement head on.

U.K. brand, The Tomato Stall’s Paperboard Tomato Punnet*

The Tomato Stall is an upscale, passionate and sustainably oriented team of tomato producers on the Isle of Wight, U.K. that sell freshly picked fruit only hours after plucking it from the vine. Their two hundred varieties of organic and conventionally grown products are also used in finer eateries, available at markets and sold by independent retailers.

They worked with Graphic Packaging International (GPI) for a paper-based solution to significantly reduce the amount of plastic in their product packaging. The paperboard punnet improves product protection and stacking strength, providing vivid graphics and an improved unboxing experience in a fully recyclable and compostable package. Openings on the top also provide for good product visibility. The SFI-certified fiber boxes are flat-packed, set up by hand and hand-filled with precious products.

The Tomato Stall punnet received an Outstanding Achievement in Sustainability Award at the Paperboard Packaging Competition in 2021. Judges were especially pleased to celebrate this breakthrough product that is now gaining recognition in the tomato industry.

The tomato punnet is but one of the ProducePack™ family of packaging solutions from GPI. Additional fiber-based packs play significant roles in the merchandizing of apples, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, grapes, mushrooms, and other fresh fruits and vegetables.

*The punnet is a small box or square basket for the gathering, transport, and sale of fruit and vegetables.

Niagara Orchard’s Paperboard Fruit Carriers

Niagara Orchard & Vineyard Corp. is the combination of three independent grower-shipper groups based in Ontario, Canada. They’ve previously used polyethylene containers for fresh fruit but approached WestRock to provide paper-based alternatives to their single-use plastic packs. WestRock’s paper carriers were the perfect solution. They are easily stacked, and quickly and efficiently set up on-site. The fruit is hand packed, tops are locked and carriers loaded for distribution.

The sustainability benefits were huge given the renewable resource and durability of kraft paperboard, and recyclability of the carriers through standard curbside programs. As an aside, customers especially enjoy the brilliant billboard graphics and respective color schemes that differentiate plums, pears, nectarines, peaches and grapes. The retail branding benefits are clear at the store shelf. Niagara Orchard is pleased to be doing their part in moving the produce industry away from plastics to fiber-based packaging.

The WestRock fruit carriers are part of the EverGrow™ Collection of fiber-based produce packaging including baskets, carriers and punnets. Made from sustainably sourced wood fiber, EverGrow products is another example of paper alternative to single-use plastic packaging.