2023 is set to be an important year in packaging. As the market begins to emerge from the shadow of the COVID era, the trends that will shape the future of the fruit industry are already starting to have an impact. In a climate where producers, packers, and processors have to deal with legislation, evolving consumer demands, price rises, and inflation, staying ahead of the curve on packaging trends has never been more important.
Sustainability becomes crucial
While the need for sustainable packaging never really went away, it did slip down the priority list during the pandemic, when the industry’s focus was on throughput at all costs. After 2022 saw the climate crisis became all too real for many people, with extreme weather causing blizzards, drought, and wildfires across large parts of the globe, the need for sustainability has become more pressing than ever.
In this environment, increasingly eco-savvy consumers expect the whole food supply chain, from producers and processors to packers and retailers, to step up to the sustainability challenge, and lawmakers are in lockstep with them. Plastic packaging bans for many fruit applications are already in place in France and Spain, while the UK recently implemented its plastic packaging tax, with data collection for further EPR reforms to begin this year.
It will be impossible to manage all this without considering the most sustainable packaging solutions for each product. This may involve using more circular economy-friendly materials, like monopolymer and paper, or it may involve lightweighting and reducing the materials needed to make each pack.
Study after study shows sustainability plays an increasingly decisive role in a consumer’s purchasing decisions, particularly in the case of Gen Z consumers, who are rapidly maturing into the world’s leading buying power. In 2023, it will become the most important trend every fruit packaging converter must pay attention to for the sake of customers, consumers, and the future of the planet itself.
Balancing barrier performance and plastic reduction
Sustainability is a complex topic – there is much more to consider than simply eliminating all plastic from the supply chain. While reducing plastic use wherever possible is important, this should not come at the cost of barrier performance and product preservation.
Around a third of all food produced globally is wasted. The production and processing of all these tonnes of wasted food come with a significant carbon cost, and food packaging must do all it can to reduce this, even if that means using a minimal amount of plastic. Perishable fruits like peaches and berries or prepared fruit salads and some convenience foods can see their shelf life significantly lengthened using a high barrier packaging solution.
Much of the industry’s focus in 2023 will be on developing minimal-plastic or plastic-free materials that offer a comparable barrier performance to plastic. This may involve using monopolymers, which are easier to recycle, or advanced metallised materials which remain recyclable. Hybrid packaging solutions will become more prominent, too – for example, pressed pulp trays sealed with compostable lidding films – as the industry continues to balance the equally important aims of plastic reduction with product preservation and waste minimisation.
Smaller servings with convenient packaging
Another way good food packaging design can help reduce waste is by providing efficientortion control. By serving smaller, more convenient snack-size portions to consumers, fruit brands can also ensure they meet another important trend – the consumer desire for easy-to-eat convenience foods.
This is supported by a [i] that found consumers show a more positive emotional response to small and regular size portions of fruit. Larger portions elicit more negative emotions, like boredom. Through convenient, easy-open packaging, it is easy to brand fruit products as healthy on-the-go snacks that meet many consumer demands at once.
As a result, features that add convenience for the end user are set to become more prominent in 2023. Easy peel and reseal lidding films on portions of prepared fresh fruit is one innovation that can be enhanced using laser scribing technology, such as our Parkscribe™ technology. Parkscribe allows us to laser through one layer of a polymer while leaving the second layer untouched. The addition of a pressure-sensitive adhesive makes for a reclosable lidding film that can be weld sealed, making it integral to the pack, meaning it stays attached through the recycling chain and sits with current OPRL guidelines
This is just one innovation among many making fruit packaging more convenient for today’s time-poor consumers.
Replacing cartonboard and plastic trays with paper or compostable flexible solutions will be another crucial way the fruit supply chain serves the sustainability megatrend. Flexible packaging is inherently a more sustainable format than carton or corrugated as it is much easier to transport.
Even if supplied flat for filling and packing applications, the thickness of cartons and corrugated board means fewer packs can be provided in each delivery. When erected and filled, rigid packaging also results in a lot of air being shipped through the supply chain. Flexible packaging helps optimise logistics by minimising the amount of air shipped in each pack, meaning each delivery goes a little further, waste and unnecessary emissions are trimmed from the supply chain, and transit costs are kept as low as possible.
At Parkside, we specialise in making cutting-edge sustainable flexible solutions by developing award-winning innovative materials and technologies. This has allowed us to develop unique solutions that serve all of the above trends – for example, an all-paper pack for frozen food that is treated with a unique water-based acrylic coating to repel ice crystals while preserving the frozen fruit within.
To learn more about how Parkside’s leading flexible fruit packaging solutions can help you overcome the challenges of 2023’s fast-paced market, click here and get in touch today.