With so many premium grape varieties entering the market the produce industry is constantly looking for ways to improve the packaging process for this popular fruit. Top–of–mind is safeguarding product so flavor remains consistent, and crispness is never compromised assuring the grape’s premium quality once on grocery shelves. It’s no wonder grape packaging has gone through so many evolutions.
Taking a step back in history grapes were packaged in wooden crates for centuries until corrugate replaced wood in the early 1900’s. Since then grapes packaging has evolved to include flats, bags, Styrofoam packs, returnable plastic containers (RPC’s), re–sealable bags, cubes and clamshells. Although growers have moved toward a larger offering of clamshell packaging driven by retailer demand there’s been a mixed response from consumers, including concerns over the environmental impact of plastics.
Most recently under the grapes packaging microscope has been the hot topic of top–seal packaging. Not new to produce, this format was adopted by the greenhouse sector to maintain control over the quality of tomato varieties when transitioning between the packinghouses to ensure the arrival of the freshest possible product on shelf. Top–seal is now being used by a number of fruits and vegetables including berries, potatoes, mushrooms, nuts, leafy greens, and yes, grapes. While top–seal packaging offers a solution that preserves the quality of grapes, most importantly it reduces unwanted packaging waste. In addition, labor times are reduced and top–seal packaging offers an appealing marketing platform that’s both retailer and distributor friendly.
All Vanguard Direct 2018 grape varieties will be offered in top–seal packaging as well as the traditional pack styles, packed in our new state–of–the–art packing facility at Vanguard Challapampa in Ica, Peru. Vanguard has the advantage of being able to tap into its global grape supply to best understand and innovate solutions. While supplying multiple markets it is unlikely that there will be a one size fits all packaging solution, however Vanguard is continuously looking at opportunities from all of the various global growing regions, and taking into consideration the market impact on each packaging technology.
For the upcoming grapes seasons Vanguard Direct is introducing seven new varieties including Sweet Celebration™, Jack’s Salute™, Ivory™, Sweet Globe™, Sugar Crisp™, Sweet Favor™, and Sweet Sapphire™ thus increasing seasonal shipment from 300,000 boxes to 1,200,000. The category overall expects to see seven to 10 new varieties vying for shelf space and consumer attention in 2018.
It’s a given that packaging is a powerful way to differentiate, and packaging done well is your best on–shelf sales representative, but just how the industry will innovate beyond top–seal packaging remains to be seen. When it comes to grapes one thing is clear, the packaging discussion will continue. At the same time, all of us at Vanguard International will be actively listening, and adapting.