Fresh Produce Packaging Plays Relevant Role in Reducing Food Waste, Study Shows

by | Aug 26, 2019

(Credit: Australian Fresh Produce Alliance)

While both consumers and business have increasingly expressed concern about the amount of packaging that is used for fresh produce, a new study indicates that with certain types of produce, it may make practical sense to use packaging. The study, from the Australian Fresh Produce Alliance, shows that fresh produce packaging can help reduce the estimated $20 billion of food waste in Australia each year.

The research mapped the lifecycle of 10 fresh produce items both with and without packaging. The results show that the benefits of produce packaging include product protection, extension of shelf life and the ability to communicate product information to consumers. The study also indicated new packaging formats have assisted in the establishment of new markets for produce that previously would not have been able to be sold, such as oddly shaped or smaller produce.

However, the report stresses, it is important to work to reduce produce packaging where possible and to identify types of packaging that provide greater opportunities for recycling.

Cold supply chains were identified as integral to preserving product in the lifecycle of produce in Australia. Australia needs sophisticated cold chain technology because of the long geographical distances produce must travel. The interaction of packaging and the cold chain was also seen as critical to extend shelf life and minimize waste in many instances.

The Australian Fresh Produce Alliance says that about 7.3 metric tons of food is lost or wasted each year in Australia, and hopes the report will help consumers better understand why producers use particular packaging formats.

The research also identifies a number of key recommendations for the industry to study, including:

  • a better understanding of food waste that occurs in the home post retail purchase;
  • education for consumers on the role of packaging and why it is used for certain types of fresh produce;
  • a focus on a ‘circular economy’ approach to packaging, involving producers, retailers and government coming together to identify ways in which to reduce packaging waste and improve recycling and reuse;
  • further work on clarifying the value of packaging in product safety, with an emphasis on “ready to eat” fresh produce;
  • the extent to which packaging plays a role in maintaining and enhancing sensory aspects of fresh produce, such as look, taste and smell.


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