The Solarenn cooperative has been working for two years on changing its packaging. For the 2021 season, three actors of the fruit and vegetable sector have developed innovative, optimized and eco-designed packaging. An efficient tripartite partnership and design.

A tripartite partnership for eco-designed 100% cardboard packaging

“Eco-design is a business approach that requires investments and time, on the long term,” explains the president, Christophe Rousse. A joint effort from three actors of the fruit and vegetable sector – the Solarenn cooperative (Saint Armel, 35), DS Smith, supplier of sustainable packaging (Paris, 75) and ETpack, mechanizer (Quimper, 29) – has helped optimize tomato packaging throughout the supply chain. The common goal? Moving to more sustainable solutions and anticipating the AGEC* law, by eliminating single-use plastic. They have therefore developed 100% cardboard packaging which is eco-designed and innovative, allowing for maximum flexibility and visibility of the product. The joint design was initiated in September 2020. “By working ahead, each one is attentive to the technical and financial constraints of the other partners. Exchanges for 6 months for a tripartite relationship that is truly winning on all fronts,” according to the three partners.

This commitment fits the expectations of the French, who are increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of their consumption and who are now pushing actors of the food industry to adapt. For the past 2 years, there is indeed strong societal pressure to eliminate single-use plastic.

Zero plastic and 100% cardboard for 7 references in 2021

In 2021, 7 references of trays are 100% cardboard with zero-plastic at Solarenn. The range concerned comes in 4 sizes: 250, 350, 400 and 500 gr; for small round cherry tomatoes and long cherry tomatoes. While waiting for feedback from the consumers, the cooperative continues to work with its partners on the rest of its offer. By 2022, the goal is to use only 100% recyclable packaging (trays and films) for all Solarenn products.

In 2020, 240 tons of plastic were eliminated. 20% of the Solarenn merchandise is concerned with packaging (80% is sold in bulk).

Innovative cardboard packaging by DS Smith, for Solarenn

For Solarenn, DS Smith has developed a completely new packaging made of two parts: tray and top. The tray, without any printing, is made of corrugated cardboard, and the top is made of solid cardboard. The top is attached to the tray mechanically, and a pre-cut on the side of the packaging allows it to be opened easily.

The precise and customizable cut-outs on the top help with product visibility. In terms of logistics, this solution with two separate parts offers a 10 to 15% gain in the number of cardboard cut-out pallets shipped compared to shipping trays with the tops attached. The environmental impact is therefore optimized by reducing the number of trucks on the road.

Adapted packing line thanks to ETpack

The close collaboration between Solarenn and ETpack, two French companies from Brittany, also optimizes the process with a flexible solution and very quick changes between series. This flexibility will be able to better meet the expectations of the cooperative and its final clients in retail. ETpack, based in Quimper, offers a standard and scalable mechanization solution, the ECOWRAP® ETW201 packer model with automatic feeding which fits the concept of eco-designed packaging.

“Thanks to our industrial organization and production model, the fact that we are integrated into the process since the beginning allows us to offer efficient machines quickly, and to be ready on time for the start of the tomato season in April,” explains François Le Treut, sales manager.

Progress strategy since 2012 at Solarenn

Recyclability, reduction and substitution of plastic, integration of recycled material, reuse…all those issues have been at the heart of the cooperative’s thinking about packaging for several years. “In 2012, we were the first in France to launch flowpack packaging for cherry tomatoes. This type of packaging helped us reduce our plastic consumption for packaging by 25%. Solarenn has been committed since 2018 by initiating the first trials of eco-responsible packaging. In 2019, the recyclable cardboard tray with plastic film wrap was used for 100% of the range without pesticides. In 2020, all packaged products for consumer sales benefited from recyclable cardboard trays, therefore allowing a 70% saving in plastic for the packaging of these products.

Packaging still essential for products without pesticides

The Solarenn tomatoes are guaranteed to be grown without pesticides* and also benefit from the High Environmental Value (HEV) level 3 certification. Eco-designed packaging therefore remains essential. “It protects the products during transport, maintains its quality and ensures traceability for consumers. We must fight against over-packaging, but not over packaging itself. The field reality and distribution circuit does not allow us today to guarantee, without packaging, that the virtuous production of our products will be preserved all the way to the consumer. Some traceability could be lost and there could be direct contact with products containing pesticides,” explains Isabelle Georges, director of Solarenn.

For more information:
Nathalie Jouan
Phone: 06 61 77 35 00

DS Smith
Sayuli Nishioka
Phone: 01 56 03 15 30

François Le Treut (sales manager)
Phone: 06 88 09 95 85