Collaboration offers fresh approach to tomato packaging

WITH growing demand from consumers for sustainability without compromising on product quality, the packaging of fresh produce remains an ever-evolving challenge.

One brand described as demonstrating that forward-thinking can be used to balance these different needs is The Tomato Stall. As part of its approach to sustainable tomato production, it utilises a completely biodegradable growing system, composting plant waste to enrich its soil for future crops and using natural predators to control pests.

To complement its natural ethos, The Tomato Stall required a sustainable, fibre-based packaging solution that helped to eliminate plastic flow wrap on specific ranges while reducing flow-wrap usage overall.

The business partnered with Graphic Packaging to support its transition to eliminating flow-wrap on its cherry, tiger and beef tomato ranges, while ‘significantly’ reducing the amount of plastic in its packaging portfolio. Importantly, the new solution had to provide the same level of protection as the previous pack in multiple retail channels.

An additional challenge was that the fibre-based carton should catch the eye of consumers and also maintain confidence that the product inside was fresh and undamaged. To meet this challenge, the teams collaborated to reach a solution that offered adequate protection but also gave visibility of the tomatoes inside.

The Tomato Stall and Graphic Packaging developed two complementary solutions for three different sized tomato varieties. First, a hinged lid concept was developed for cherry tomatoes to ensure optimal protection was achieved. As a result of the need for greater protection of the small, delicate tomatoes, the design, which features several strategically placed apertures, was tweaked and adjusted before a final format was agreed upon.

The hinged-lid mono-material tray was printed on the outside to create muted, natural print tones described as giving a natural look, as well as creating a ‘tactile’ finish.

A second design was developed for the tiger and beef tomato varieties. To pack six large tomatoes effectively, Graphic Packaging developed a partially enclosed punnet with a tab lock. The fibre-based carton featured apertures at each end and a central circular feature aperture.

In this design, the tomatoes are firmly held in place due to their positioning and, therefore, larger apertures were utilised to give visibility of the product. Like the hinged-lid design, the carton was printed in the company’s branding to create a cohesive look to the range.

Both designs were supplied pre-glued and flat packed to The Tomato Stall, for hand erecting and manual filling, to keep carbon impact during transport to a minimum. Graphic Packaging explained that ‘extensive’ fridge and shelf-life testing was also carried out to ensure the trays did not absorb moisture.

This solution is said to be ‘easily’ scaled and transferred to a range of fresh produce applications.