Each year, the judges of the North American Paperboard Packaging Competition identify a handful of potentially “game-changing” entries, those packages that introduce a new production technique, a breakthrough design, or the potential for market expansion.
Graphic Packaging International (GPI) submitted one of those groundbreaking entries this year—and took the top award in the Eco category—with their Clementine FruitPack, a solution for produce that replaces less sustainable substrates such as fish-net plastic mesh or plastic film, with renewable, recyclable paperboard. In addition to providing improved billboard space, the package’s built-in handle makes for convenient carrying, stacking, and displaying in grocery produce aisles.
The good news for our industry is that GPI was not filling an isolated market need; rather, the produce market is shifting its branding focus, as marketing executives determine that its well-worn health messaging has proven largely ineffective. Consumers know that fruits and vegetables are good for them, yet this knowledge has not translated into increased sales over the past years.
The solution, according to perishable foods expert Jim Prevor, is that the industry should instead “hit consumers in ways [that]… actually motivate them… indulgence, taste, and luxury.” With this in mind, produce growers are finally reconsidering their packaging strategies by looking to packaging materials that will more readily impact consumers.
And here is where paperboard shines. Not only do paper-based substrates provide excellent billboard space and rich visual and tactile stimulation that encourages appetite appeal, but paperboard’s flat surface is also ideal for displaying QR codes and augmented reality, value-added components that provide consumers with additional information such as recipes or place of origin information. Finally, as compared to other substrates, paperboard’s green, sustainable ethos is in perfect alignment with the obvious nutritional benefits of fruits and veggies.
Fresh produce marketing consultant Lisa Cork tells her clients, “Don’t sell the apple, sell the crunch!” In a changing marketplace where notions such as taste, desire, and luxury are becoming more relevant, paperboard packaging is exceptionally well suited to “sell the crunch”—in other words, engaging and enticing consumers… and driving sales in the process.