Standout produce: Stories behind award-winning packaging
By Kathy Gibbons | Contributing Writer
When Danny Mucci spotted a unique one-bite cucumber variety that was even smaller than Mucci Farms’ snack-size CuteCumbers, he was intrigued.
“As a one-bite snack, we felt that it was a no-brainer to piggyback off of our award-winning CuteCumber brand as well as add to our already existing lineup of kid-centric items,” said Mucci, president of Mucci International Marketing. “We saw an opportunity to create a smaller version of the CuteCumber, but also felt the product needed a value add of some sort.”
That value was a veggie dip. Next came the packaging to accommodate it in several forms. In short order, CuteCumber Poppers were launched. They’ve received several awards, including first place for innovation in best new packaging at the 2018 United Fresh show.
While CuteCumber Poppers led the pack, the variety of products highlighted for packaging innovation at United Fresh exemplify industry trends to meet consumer demand for fresh, quality products that come packaged in a way that makes sense for their daily lives.
“It all advances on the common themes,” said international packaging consultant Jeffrey S. Brandenburg of JSB Group. “It’s advances on existing technology — advancements in sustainability, advancements in new food products, i.e., the cauliflower crumbles and veggie noodles.
“I don’t know that anybody’s come out with something that is absolutely 100 percent new with the exception of those new vegetable (crumbles and noodles),” he said. “Ready Pac has introduced some new fajita wraps and others are getting into some new kinds of various stir-fry bowls, or ready meal kinds of things that require the packaging to be innovative to handle.”
In Mucci Farms’ case, the company asked its existing packaging partners to come up with options that would make it possible to include a dip. Mucci said the result was a 1.5-pound resealable club pack with built-in dip tray geared for families or small gatherings and a 5-ounce resealable individual serving version. There are also two non-dip packages: a 1.5- and 2-pound top-seal bowl and a 9-ounce pack that can be snapped off into three preportioned 3-ounce containers.
All of the packaging is made from PET material and the trays are 100 percent recyclable.
“We work with a variety of suppliers and when we have an idea for something we are looking for, we try and identify which of our existing partners can deliver what we are looking for in a cost-efficient and environmentally friendly manner,” Mucci said. “Product naming, logo design, tagline, label creation, in-store POP, banners, posters, digital strategy, production, shipping, logistics are all managed in house.”
In the bag
Dole Food Co.’s new salad bag redesign was also recognized for packaging innovation at United Fresh. Bill Goldfield, Dole director of corporate communications, said the redesigned bags are part of a new salad packaging system unveiled at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit in 2017. It marks the company’s “most comprehensive effort to rethink the packaged salad category in a decade,” he said, noting that Dole conducted extensive quantitative and qualitative research along with focus groups, in-store interviews and other face-to-face interactions with salad users and Dole’s retail partners.
“The redesign was driven by both consumer demand and the continued growth of salad as the basis of a healthier diet and lifestyle,” he said. “Our consumers told us they wanted a cleaner, more contemporary design that better communicated both brand and product benefits. “
In response, Dole designers created a new graphics system to help improve identification of the salad kit or blend category, along with product contents, ingredients and nutritional benefits. The project included bags and labels on clamshells for both conventional and organic Dole salad products, with a total of 72 SKUs.
At its foundation is a color-coded system that assigns a specific PMS color to each category: Mild Basics, Leafy and Robust, Mixers, Classic Salad Kits, Premium Salad Kits and Chopped Salad Kits.
Making it easier for consumers to connect with products that best meet their needs among the seemingly endless options in the produce aisle has another advantage: increasing sales.
“Packaging advances, especially those that more clearly communicate product ingredients, benefits and usage possibilities, help to increase velocity on the shelf, resulting in a fresher selection of salads every day,” Goldfield said.
STACKERS by DelFrescoPure was another nominee for best new packaging at United Fresh. The three 5-ounce snack-size snacks, available in Canada, are filled with stacks of greenhouse-grown strawberries. Three characters are used to describe their snackers profiles: on the packaging a Snack Attack Berry showing a hangry (hungry and angry) strawberry wearing a shark suit, an Active Berry depicting a strawberry exercising and determined to burn calories and a Sharing is Caring Berry with a shy strawberry that wants to meet a new friend or share a snack with a loved one.
“Our YES!Berries Your Everyday Snack! area ideal for sharing, school lunches and a quick grab-n-go option,” said marketing manager Fiona McLean. “Our team at DelFrescoPure had a blast coming up with a unique creative concept. We were thrilled to be nominated to participate in the Innovations awards during United Fresh.”
Another nominee was Mann Packing’s Fresh Veggie Noodles & Rice products, which Senior Marketing and Communications Specialist Jacob Shafer said exemplifies “fresh veggies made easy.”
Noodles include butternut squash “rotini,” kohlrabi “linguine” and sweet potato “fettuccine” cut into unique shapes; “rice” blends include cauliflower, broccoli and sweet potato blend and a cauliflower “fried” blend that includes carrots, kohlrabi and sugar snap peas.
Mann’s is particularly proud of the way the products deliver a playful look and feel with targeted messaging about what they contain and how to use them. The product and packaging evolved together, Shafer said.
“The product itself features unique cuts and blends of superfood veggies,” he said. “Our packaging was designed with convenience in mind. The consumer can steam the product right in the bag.”
Other nominees included the Sweet Bites Pail with SUNSET Snack Pack from Mastronardi Produce, designed to provide consumers with a convenient at home or on-the-go solution for snacking tomatoes; Mission Produce’s Emeralds in the Rough utilizing avocados with imperfections; and Red Sun Farms’ resealable organic fiber pint featuring peal and reseal technology on a fiber bowl.
All have common denominators, said Bob Bergeron of Bergeron Packaging Strategies, whose passion is developing new packaging technology.
“Convenience is always the biggest one issue probably for everybody,” Bergeron said, adding that “source reduction and recyclability (are) all big parts of it.”