GGC 2021 Packaging session Chris Ford Sharpak Aylesham Mauro Stipa Ilip Massimiliano Persico Massimo Bellotti Carton Pack

The international table grape industry came together on 30 June for the inaugural Global Grape Congress. As part of the programme’s European track, several key players came together for a session entitled ‘Adapt for the future: Packaging’. These experts included Chris Ford of Sharpak Aylesham, Mauro Stipa of Ilip, and Massimiliano Persico and Massimo Bellotti of Carton Pack.

What are the most important considerations when it comes to sustainable packaging?

Chris Ford: One of the most important considerations is the circular economy, especially for plastics. If you can put more recycled content into the product before it starts and can make sure it goes through a recycle loop, the energy at the start of the process if being used again and again. The packaging must also have a purpose, and add value to the product itself. It must keep the product safe and keep the product fresher on the shelf, which means less food waste.

Does more effort need to be made to communicate the benefit of packaging to consumers?

Mauro Stipa: There is often too much concern about the plastic, and not enough concern about the product within that plastic. A punnet is a container, so does it remain the best product to add value to the product? Yes.

With consumers, you have to distinguish between surveys that say ‘plastic – never ever!’, and shopper metrics, which show that consumers actually do buy plastic because it’s cheap and transparent. Plastic is necessary – think of technical issues like shelf-life, the cold chain, the handling of the grapes themselves. Plastic remains the best product for this.

At the end of the day, plastic doesn’t put itself into the ocean, or throw itself onto a mountain. The government should not ban plastic, but should increase discipline and education. Plastic is a huge economy, so why destroy such an efficient segment over perceptions – it can be sustainable, as much as any other material.

Is there a need to move away from plastics and seek alternatives?

Massimo Bellotti: It all depends on how you manage plastic. We know how useful it is and that it can be recyclable. Look at what happens in nature – you go from a seed to a plant, then it does but there are more seeds. Plastic can operate in the same way, and can be managed as a natural resource. But everyone must be educated to do this, it must be a collaboration between different countries. It is also important to say that when it comes to climate change, plastic is not one of the biggest problems, other areas produce greater carbon emissions.

For the full story, see the upcoming Fresh Focus Packaging and Technology special in the July/August 2021 issue of Eurofruit