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Produce Packaging Business Development Manager Lee Cooper features in the 2021 Berry Yearbook



Whilst the need for a reliable supply of affordable packaging has understandably been an important consideration during the coronavirus pandemic, sustainability has been a priority for the berry packaging sector…

Lee CooperProduce Packaging’s business development manager (South East and Scotland), reveals that the firm also saw a continued demand for both their Moulded Fibre and Thermoformed paper pulp ‘CKF – Earthcycle’ Top Seal punnets last year (2020).

“Although the pandemic slowed progress down with our work on compostable/recyclable punnets, this gained traction again during the latter part of 2020 as retailers started to look ahead to 2021 and beyond. We are currently undertaking numerous trials using this material and believe it will gather further momentum in 2021.”

Due to both ranges being produced using paper pulp they are both compostable and recyclable, giving a range of post-consumer, end-of-life, disposal options.”

Lee also reveals that, last year, farm shops pick-your-own home delivery schemes and organic growers certainly favoured compostable punnets over PET (polyethylene terephthalate [plastic]) punnets. These smaller operations have been much quicker to adopt these alternative materials. Lee adds: “Retail wise, we ran a number of successful launches across the berry sector in our CKF– Earthcycle punnets in 2020 and early signs are looking good for 2021.”

In a similar vein, last summer (2020) saw Asda launch what it claimed to be the first fully-recyclable blueberry punnet – whose film lid was recyclable like the punnet itself. This innovation noted the supermarket will enable 5.5 million film lids to be recycled with the punnet each year.

Meanwhile, BerryWorld – an international group of soft fruit and prepared fruit companies – announced (at the start of last year) a range of measures to make its packaging more recyclable and environmentally friendly. For its UK operations, the group set a target to introduce 100% recyclable packaging, including film and bubble pads by 2021 with a minimum of 80% rPET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate [plastic]) by 2025. At the time of its announcement BerryWorld UK’s punnets were 100% widely recyclable and contained 50-80% rPET content.

Lee notes that social, as well as environmental, responsibility is coming to the fore. Through one of its key suppliers in Italy, Produce Packaging now has access to Social Plastic Punnets, which sees people living in developing countries collect plastic litter and hand it in to recycling centres in exchange for goods. Lee says: “We view this as a very important initiative in the work to reduce plastic pollution in our global seas.”

Whilst environmental and social concerns have clearly remained a priority, the coronavirus pandemic has understandably created some other important considerations for the berry market. Lee explains that when the berry market’s supply chain began to experience disruptions last March (2020), the need for a guaranteed supply of punnets become high on the agenda. He recalls: “We saw a much higher percentage of plastic PET punnets put out onto farms and also into our own depots during March and April than we would normally do, with growers wanting assurance that they would have the packaging they needed once the UK season started. Thankfully, with our suppliers’ support, Produce Packaging didn’t experience any supply chain issues at all throughout the pandemic.”

Lee reminds the industry that hygiene has always been a key priority. “Produce Packaging is fully BRCGS accredited and it’s our duty to ensure all of our packaging is supplied to our customers in a secure and safe manner.” Unquestionably, hygienic, cost-effective and efficient plastic punnets will continue to be a popular choice for the berry industry this year. But those who are seeking alternatives to plastic also have many good options available to them.