Packaging Fresh Produce
Packaging for fresh produce varied by region, purpose, and personal preference. Ideally, packaging was low cost, low maintenance, strong enough to protect produce, easy to lift and maneuver, and reusable or recyclable. The ultimate goal of packaging was to help the supply chain deliver an intact, undamaged, nondiseased, salable, fresh product in an easily handled and counted container that was low in cost. Natural materials such as bamboo, straw, or palm leaves were used as packaging in the developing world and were attractive for their low cost and reusability. However, they were unattractive to large-scale, more established production because they were awkwardly shaped, hard to clean, hard to pack for transport, and often had sharp edges that could damage produce. Wood boxes offered a reusable and easy-to-stack shipping option but had been increasing in cost since the 1990s. Wood boxes also were heavy, which added significant shipping cost. Moreover, they carried yeast and mold spores, were difficult to clean for reuse, and were prone to splintering and thereby potentially damaging the produce.
Reusable plastic cartons were another option for packaging produce. They could be custom-designed and were strong and lightweight. However, they were expensive to produce, were attractive to thieves in developing countries for alternative uses, and required considerable logistics for use in a continuous cycle.
Corrugated cardboard boxes were the industry standard for fresh produce operations. They were affordable to manufacture in bulk; could include branding and product information on the box; could be custom-designed for size, shape, and strength; and were lightweight. However, cardboard was susceptible to moisture and could be damaged by rough handling.