There’s little denying the impact of COVID-19 has been far-reaching. No industry is immune and for our dynamic industry we like to call the fresh produce industry, growing consumer food safety concerns are fast becoming the driving force behind a sudden and unprecedented shift in consumer habits. According to a recent survey, over 40% of consumers say they have changed their purchasing habits as a result of the virus, and 20% say they prefer their fresh produce packaged rather than loose. Consumers are moving their focus from ‘reuse and recycle’ to ‘use once and discard’, now that it’s been shown that COVID-19 can survive on surfaces for extended periods of time. Plastic waste is surging as disposable, single-use plastic bags and packaging give consumers peace of mind that the food inside is virus-free. It means efforts to reduce plastic packaging have taken a bit of a back seat while food safety moves higher up the priority list. Right now, consumers want assurance that their food is safe to eat. With 69% of Americans saying they’re more concerned about food safety than they were six months ago, it’s our job to reassure consumers that their food is free of contamination. The challenge many food producers are facing now is how to best adapt to this growing trend without losing sight of the sustainability goal post. There are a few key approaches we think are vital at this time, so let’s take a look:
ADDRESS CONCERNS AND GAIN CONSUMER TRUST
At a time like this you can’t remain quiet. It’s vital that we all do our bit to address consumer concerns. Food producers have had to ramp up hygiene protocols during COVID-19 to mitigate the risk of contamination. Consumers want to know this. In fact, two-thirds of Americans (66%) say that stakeholders in the food packaging industry should proactively communicate the actions they’re taking to secure a safe and quality supply. Communicating your produce handling processes and your focus on food safety will go a long way in gaining consumer trust and ensure they feel that much more comfortable continuing to purchase from you or your brand. In a time when it’s hard to know what to believe, consumer trust is invaluable.
NAVIGATE THE NEW NORMAL WITH SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING
While COVID-19 has stolen the limelight for a few months now, it doesn’t mean the issues around sustainability have disappeared. Quite the opposite. Sustainability may be overshadowed, but it’s still a top priority. Understandably, we’re doing all that we can to keep COVID-19 at bay, and consumers feel assured that their food is virus-free when it’s safely hiding beneath shiny packaging. To focus on sustainability and food safety simultaneously, producers need to look at their packaging solutions. While plastic might solve issues around food hygiene, it’s not going to help achieve sustainability goals. We’ve always been huge proponents of sustainable, safe produce packaging which is why we feel there’s more than a few viable options out there for producers looking to satisfy the short-term spike in food safety concerns with the long-term impact of sustainability.
Enviro Pac Sustainable Packaging
This fully compostable packaging solution meets the needs of the newly safety-conscious consumer. The strong, water-resistant shells protect the product’s quality and uphold hygiene standards as they make their way from the packhouse to the shop floor. We couldn’t have foreseen encouraging a throwaway culture, but it seems to be a necessary part of fighting COVID-19. Enviro Pac is a single-use packaging solution, but instead of going to landfill, it’s thrown straight into the home compost, decomposing within 90 days.
Consumer trends show a move away from loose produce, but there’s no denying the health benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables in their most natural form. PackNatur is compostable tube netting that retains the authenticity of loose produce. 100% plastic-free, PackNatur allows consumers to buy fresh fruit and vegetables in bulk without having to handle the produce. Made from beech cellulose, PackNatur’s tube netting allows fresh produce to breathe, enabling fruit and vegetables to last two to three days longer. This is an appealing solution to the many consumers who are currently shopping less often. Sustainability and food safety aren’t separate issues, they’re two sides of the same coin.
FOOD SAFETY AND A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE ARE POSSIBLE
When the dust eventually settles on COVID-19, food producers will reflect on how well they maintained sustainability goals while meeting consumer hygiene requirements. Consumers are at the core of business decisions, and right now their priorities lie in food safety. It’s possible to meet their needs without putting your sustainability goals on hold. We can help your brand move to an eco-friendly food packaging solution that puts both your consumers and the environment first. Give us a call. We’ve got the solution.