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Packaging system

Zero plastic for Solarenn and partners DS Smith & ETpack

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

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Japanese tomato harvest robot in action in Tomatoworld

A new tomato harvesting robot has recently been driving through the paths of Tomatoworld. It is the latest product of inaho Europe, a subsidiary of the Japanese company inaho.  “The purpose of launching the demonstration at Tomatoworld is to allow more interested people to see the robot in operation,” says Takahito Shimizo, managing director of inaho Europe. “We want to demonstrate the robot and receive more feedback from growers, in order to develop and increase the value of the robot.”

Snack tomato robot
Tomatoworld is a horticultural information and education center in Westland, Netherlands. In the greenhouse, snack tomatoes are grown.

Takahito Shimizo shows how the robot is a fully automatic harvesting device for snack tomatoes. “The AI algorithm identifies the ripe fruits by color and size and then harvests the ripe snack tomatoes.”

inaho has already conducted field trials with growers in Japan and demonstrated a reduction in human working hours of around 16% by setting up a workflow in which robots harvest during the nighttime before humans do.

Meanwhile, inaho also found that there are differences between Japanese and Dutch growers in terms of harvest and post-harvest operations. “For example, the standards for the picking appropriate color of the fruits and the frequency of harvesting are different,” says Takahito.

In order to develop a solution that is more suitable for Dutch growers, inaho is keen to get a better understanding of the Dutch growers’ practices and receive more operational feedback from them. In this context, inaho is also actively seeking a grower partner who would be able to carry out a field trial of the harvesting robot.

Growers welcome
The demonstration in Tomatoworld also contributes to this: growers are invited to come and see and assess the robot. “We are happy to discuss details about the robot, such as its functions and expected future updates. We can also provide simulations to calculate the labor and cost savings, based on the results of the trials in Japan,” Takahito says.

It is not the Japanese company’s first robot. inaho already launched an AI-equipped asparagus harvesting robot (video) in 2019. They are also working on a robot that can phenotype plants. inaho operates according to the Robot-as-a-Service (RaaS) business model – paying per harvested product.



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BelOrta launches 100% recycled & recyclable strawberry punnet

Starting this week, the first Belgian strawberries from BelOrta will be packed in new packaging. These are Tray2Tray punnets made from recycled raw materials that are still 100% recyclable. Consumers can recognize these punnets by a special logo.

Starting this week, the first Belgian strawberries from BelOrta will be packed in new packaging. These are Tray2Tray punnets made from recycled raw materials that are still 100% recyclable. Consumers can recognize these punnets by a special logo.
BelOrta launches 100% recycled & recyclable strawberry punnet 89

Together with Fost Plus and Infia, BelOrta says it is taking ‘the next step in increasingly sustainable production and distribution’. “This step contributes to a circular economy. Not unimportant, because recent figures show that we are eating more and more home-grown strawberries,” according to the cooperative. 

Closed cycle

With the strawberry punnets, no empty strawberry tray has to end up on the waste mountain from now on, because every packaging can be processed and reused as raw material for new packaging.

Jo Lambrecht, Sales & Marketing Manager at BelOrta: “With this Tray2Tray concept, in which new punnets are made from used packaging, we contribute to a circular economy. We have been working with so-called ‘r-PET’ as a raw material for 4 years, recycled from water and soft drinks bottles and other PET packaging that consumers collect. The New Blue Bag has recently been introduced to us for the collection of all plastic packaging waste. 

By the way, Belgians are champions in sorting and collecting waste, which makes a difference to a healthier and more pleasant living environment. Thanks to new techniques, developed under the impulse of Fost Plus, we can now also sort these r-PET punnets (cf. the new blue bag) and recycle them into flakes, after which they are used again as raw material for the production of new packaging, such as for our strawberries and berries. This completes the cycle.”

450 tons less CO2 emissions per year

But what about ‘the most sustainable packaging is no packaging’? Lambrecht: “That is indeed true for many products, often including food. We try to avoid or reduce the use of packaging wherever possible. But for sensitive and perishable products, well-chosen packaging is crucial in the fight against food waste. Various tests, including with strawberries and berries, have taught us that well thought-out packaging makes all the difference. Wasting less food reduces our ecological footprint. Moreover, r-PET as a raw material has a low ecological footprint compared to many other materials.”

For BelOrta, the replacement of PET by r-PET means a reduction of 450 tons of CO2 emissions per year. 

Belgians eat an average of 1.94 kg of strawberries per year

More than 9,000 tons of strawberries were sold in 2020 via BelOrta. With over 100 different growers, the acreage of strawberries at BelOrta is about 300 hectares, an increase of 4% compared to the previous year.

Recent figures from market research agency GfK also show that the average Belgian ate 1.94 kg of strawberries in 2020. That is a growth of more than 12% compared to the previous year. Elsanta, Portola, Elegance, Malling Centenary, Sonata and Sonsation are the main varieties at BelOrta.

For more information:


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Packaging system

Sustainable packaging company adds cardboard tray to its portfolio

Cascades, a North America and European based packaging company, is launching the first thermoformed cardboard tray. The product is made from 100 percent recycled and recyclable cardboard and has a recyclable water-based barrier coating which prevents moisture. “The cardboard tray makes a true alternative to plastic and foam trays,” says Jacques Bissonnette with Cascades’ Canada office. “Sustainable packaging is getting more important, enforced by retail regulations as well as consumer demand,” he added.

“In November of last year, we did a successful soft launch in Canada with the cardboard tray for mini cucumber. Just this month, a US customer started using the trays for sweet corn.” The product is available in a range of different sizes from 8 2/16 inches length, 8 11/16 inches wide to 1 11/16 inches height. However, Cascades also offers tailormade solutions. The tray is suitable for a wide range of fruits and vegetables, from Brussels sprouts to bell peppers, green beans, and much more. “The package will stand out even more if it is combined with a compostable top seal film, making it a fully sustainable solution,” Bissonnette added.

Telling the story
“We think it’s really important to tell the story how sustainable packaging can help to reduce the environmental footprint and achieve the retailer’s sustainability goals.” To support the story, Cascades has developed an LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) for all its product lines.

“This means we can tell the client exactly the amount of environmental footprint reduction they will be able to achieve with one of our sustainable solutions compared to the material they are using currently.” A lot of the current plastic packaging as well as foam packaging can be replaced by this cardboard solution and has proven to offer equivalent shelf life to plastic”. The new cardboard tray works with existing machinery and tooling for plastic trays, meaning that no extra investment is required for producers or packers looking to make the switch to cardboard.”

Cascades also invested in research on the consumer side. “It’s not only the demand for sustainability that has grown but also the willingness among consumers to put their money where their mouth is,” said Bissonnette. Most consumers are willing to pay a bit more for produce that is sustainably packaged. Also, better labeling on the packaging would encourage consumers to buy more green, sustainable packaging. “It is still a bit more expensive but both producers and retailers should not be afraid to raise their prices a bit. We are not talking about full dollars but just a few cents, ” Bissonnette noted.

For more information:
Jacques Bissonnette
Cascades Specialty Products Group
Tel:+ 1 514-378-0332

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