Sowing the seeds for packaging sustainability in fresh produce

16 December, 22

As the cost-of-living crisis bites in the UK there has been a slight dip in consumer spending on fresh fruit and vegetables. Despite the challenges facing growers the demand for packaging equipment in the fresh produce industry is still vibrant, says British manufacturer MPE UK Ltd.

Take soft fruit, a highly competitive sector. Tray sealing is the most common – as well as the fastest – method of packaging items such as strawberries and blueberries, though heat-sealed punnets are an increasingly popular pack format for the growing UK apricot market as well.

MPE manufactures an extensive range of tray sealers and says the latest fresh produce centric equipment offers sustainable solutions to help hard-pressed businesses boost consumption. Growers now have more choice of flexible systems that reduce their energy costs, improve speed to market as well as emphasising environmental credentials.

Technical Director at MPE, John Hodgkiss, explains: “We are delivering packaging machinery with growers in mind. Built like a tractor to withstand the tough agricultural environment of a pack house, the i3 and i4 tray sealers are reliable machinery and very robust. Modern packaging technology can improve efficiency, productivity and shelf appeal without compromising delicate fresh produce.”

In addition to speed to market and low maintenance backed up by 24-hour support, growers should also consider the increasing demand for more sustainable materials. Tray sealers can handle any pack formats to accommodate customers moving away from plastic wrapping in favour of eco-friendly and recyclable materials like cardboard and paper.

Behind the packaging material is the rise of all-electric tray sealers in the UK, such as those engineered by MPE. This means a phasing out of pneumatics and air pressure dependency, bringing energy savings for the food industry and quicker payback on investment. It could also open funding streams through sustainability grants – especially useful for start-up businesses catering for the vegan or vegetarian lifestyle

All-electric tray sealers are faster and more efficient as well as reducing costs, complexity and parts reliance. Speedy changeovers, ease of operation and low maintenance are other factors to take into consideration when choosing a packaging system. MPE’s tray sealers are high throughput technology with MAP as standard.

As most growing facilities are run by farmers the latest high-quality tray sealer is straightforward to operate and designed so that someone with basic mechanical skills can maintain it. Its wrapping qualities also provide excellent protection for fruit during transit and storage.

Growers can also benefit from larger format trays up to the deepest sealing capacity of 200mm. The smart footprint design of such high-speed models is ideal for smaller producers, saving valuable floor space, while the best models also offer efficient and rapid changeover between tray sizes.

Lead times for new, simple and ingenious tray sealing technologies can now be measured in months rather than years as the move towards more sustainable packs gathers pace. In the current economic climate resources need to be deployed as efficiently as possible. All-electric packaging equipment provides the fresh produce sector exactly what it needs to survive a downturn.

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