Even in this industry of ours, it’s impossible to talk about 2020 without mentioning COVID-19.
In fact, we’ve talked about it once or twice so far! Little did we know going into the year how different the world would look coming out of it. I’m sure a lot of us would have made a lot fewer New Year’s resolutions, for one. The world has changed. A lot.
Some changes have been large. Lockdowns. Masks. Others, small. Hand washing. Watching the news. One of the largest changes we’ve seen in the fresh produce industry has been the shift in how Kiwis - and people around the world - eat and shop for food. This shift in behaviour has seen food safety replace sustainability as the top consumer concern, and pre-packaged produce has shot up in popularity as a result.
Fortunately, innovative fresh produce packaging solutions means producers are still able to meet demand, ensure our food is safe to eat, while also meeting sustainability targets. With this in mind, I wanted to spend a little time today taking a closer look at just how this is playing out on the ground.
Demand for packaged fresh produce is on the rise
As consumers prioritise their health amid the pandemic, the demand for fresh produce has skyrocketed. The US alone saw a $4.5b increase in the sale of fresh produce between January and August compared with the same period in 2019. As one of the hardest-hit countries, it’s clear that a growing number of consumers in the US have adopted a nutrient-dense diet for its immune-boosting qualities.
Taking a closer look at the numbers, they tell an interesting story. In light of the potential for surface transmission, consumers have veered away from loose fruit and vegetables, instead opting for pre-packaged produce. Major Australian supermarkets across the ditch, for example, recently recorded an 11.7% rise in fresh produce sales. Packaged produce accounted for two-thirds of this increase!
The health qualities of fresh produce are undeniable, which is why fruit and vegetables have taken pride of place in the shopping trolley. With these changes to the way we shop and our desire to stay virus-free, packaged produce provides long-lasting freshness in a carefully sealed package that provides consumers with peace of mind when they need it most.
Non-perishable stock declines, fresh produce remains abundant
The immediate panic of impending lockdowns sees shoppers flock to supermarkets, often clearing the shelves of non-perishable items. It turns out the ‘every-man-for-himself’ mentality is still alive and well in the modern era, and it’s led to a shift towards stockpiling.
When canned and packaged foods go flying off the shelf, they take days – even weeks - to re-stock. However, fresh produce is replenished daily. Which means that, unsurprisingly, fresh produce has become the most reliable food source.
New Zealand’s fresh fruit, dairy, and meat industries have been the saving grace both at home and abroad. New Zealand’s fruit exports increased by 54% between March 2019 and March 2020, and dairy and meat exports rose 7.6% and 11% respectively. Farmers, producers, and packhouse workers have stepped up to the plate to ease the stress around food security and provide a safe and reliable food supply.
Our steady supply has meant we have more than enough to keep fresh food on our plates while New Zealand reaps the economic benefits from exports. If nothing else it’s been inspiring to watch this industry of ours step up when it was needed most amidst the struggles we’ve all faced this year.
Innovative packaging meets health and safety demands
Here at Jenkins, we’ve long been fans of produce packaging. It’s kind of what we do! While retaining freshness has always been our focus, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that adequate packaging offers a range of additional benefits for safety-conscious consumers. In our efforts to support environmental sustainability, our range has evolved in recent years to include eco-friendly options such as compostable and biodegradable solutions.
With the same protective qualities as traditional packaging, our eco-friendly packaging and transition support has allowed growers in the fresh produce industry to meet the demands for pre-packaged produce while also keeping sustainability in mind.
With no end to the pandemic in sight, it’s clear we will have to continue to adapt to the many changes in consumer behaviour. The rise in demand for nutrient-rich food, the concerns for our safety, and the need to retain long-lasting freshness can all be met with protective fresh produce packaging.
Whether sustainable or traditional, we’re determined to continue to provide packaging solutions that keep food fresh and consumers safe. While we may not be out of the woods yet, packaged produce gives us the ways and means to provide consumers with a healthy diet at a time when they need it most.