Fruit giant Hoogstraten adopts digital tool to assess the lifecycle and sustainability of packaging
Belgian fresh produce cooperative Hoogstraten has adopted a “next level” life-cycle analysis (LCA) tool, as it seeks to measure the environmental impact of different packaging solutions.
The company has in recent years put effort into reducing the amount of plastic packaging found within its business chain. In 2021, Hoogstraten sold 80% of its strawberries in cardboard, and the remainder in recycled PET plastic punnets.
With its new custom-made LCA tool, the company says it aims to boost its sustainability credentials further and “better understand the impact of available packaging”.
The tool uses several different metrics to make a judgement on packaging solutions. These include the source of the packaging and the production method used to create it.
Another important judgement is made regarding how much energy and water is used to create the packaging, as well as the environmental impact of transporting it between factories and stores.
According to Hoogstraten, the evaluations made by the tool will allow team members to better converse with both suppliers and customers, by holding “transparent discussions…about which solutions work best, and which need further work”. The company also says it plans to share the insights from the tool with others.
Packaging for fresh produce has been a hot topic for some time, with consumers increasingly preferring plastic-free options as they seek to improve their environmental impact.
This follows several studies exposing the lack of utility that plastic packaging offers for fresh produce. Sustainability charity Wrap recently published a report suggesting single-use plastic is ineffective at keeping produce fresh, and that sellers are better off going without it.
In the UK, Asda has explored this and has recently adopted fruit coatings from Californian start-up Apeel Sciences as a solution. The cellulose-based coating aims to keep fruit fresher for longer by keeping out air and sealing in moisture.
Meanwhile in Israel, start-up TIPA is focusing its efforts on developing compostable packaging which can mimic the barrier qualities of plastic while being more environmentally friendly.
Jurgita Girzadiene, sustainability manager at packaging manufacturer Smurfit Kappa, which provides packagaing to Hoogstraten, said: “If a plastic punnet is not collected properly, it will stay on the planet for at least 500 years. In comparison, if a paper-based punnet ends up in nature, it will disappear without trace in less than one year.
“The best packaging might be no packaging, but the second best is sustainable packaging.”