Naturipe Farms: "In order to be around for so long, you have to be sustainable"
Though Earth Day has passed, Naturipe Farms continues to focus its efforts on preserving the environment and working with nature to create a future for farmers as their livelihood depends on the land.
While speaking with Janis McIntosh, Director of Marketing Innovation and Sustainability at Naturipe Farms, she explained various ways that the company is reducing its carbon footprint.
Naturipe Farms is a farmer-owned producer of fresh berries and avocados grown by working family farmers and has been around for over 100 years.
"In order to be around for so long, you have to be sustainable, so it is natural and inherent for us," McIntosh told FreshFruitPortal.com.
Although Naturipe’s sustainability initiatives have always been ingrained in how they operate, it was about six years ago that a key retailer came to them with an idea to reduce the amount of plastic used in the clamshell packaging.
McIntosh said that when a clamshell is made, it uses the same amount of plastic on the top and bottom, and although the shift to replacing the top with an alternative that uses less plastic was expensive, it was worth it.
Naturipe's key goal for clamshells is to truly create a circular economy where clamshells are eliminated as a single-use plastic and recaptured back into recycled content to again be used as a clamshell. This model is currently being used successfully with plastic water bottles and the company would like to mimic that success.
Naturipe Farms is a member of the How2Recycle program and information is being added to their packaging to educate consumers on how to recycle berry clamshells.
Another packaging option Naturipe Farms is working on involves caneberries (raspberries and blackberries); specifically, the pad that goes in the bottom of the clamshell and the glue that affixes the pad to the clamshell. The company is working with adhesive manufacturers on an easily removable glue alternative. It is of utmost importance that consumers remove the pad from the package prior to recycling, McIntosh said, and utilizing a new easy-to-remove glue will assist in the clamshells’ recyclability.
However, McIntosh said with any packaging changes, it is necessary to understand the unintended consequences of new material. The change to plastic clamshells decades ago drastically reduced food waste, extended shelf life and increased overall consumption of fresh berries. Food waste is a huge problem in the US.
Satisfaction is key to sustainability
Sustainability is increasingly important to consumers, and as such, there is a higher demand for more sustainable options and alternatives with all of their purchases. Delivering on consumers’ wants and needs is a top priority for both Naturipe and their retailer partners, and when they can achieve that while also driving sustainability initiatives, it’s a win-win.
When asked about the consumer reaction to Naturipe's sustainability efforts, CarrieAnn Arias, Vice President of Marketing at Naturipe Farms said "most importantly, the retailers are hearing that the customers are happy and when the customer likes what they are seeing at the retail level, then we know we are doing the right thing".
"It comes back to the partnership with the retailer where you are both focused on a common goal and the ultimate end is around sustainability, but we’re also meeting consumer needs, then all of the channels have won in a single action."
"Making sure that everybody is in lock-step is how the produce industry is going to change the tide on the sustainability front," she said.
When talking about taking on sustainable initiatives in general, McIntosh said that financial sustainability for the grower is the most important factor to consider. "For us at Naturipe Farms, we remain close to our family farms and understand the challenges that face farming today, as there are numerous variables that impact the growers that go way beyond packaging," she said.
"When recommending new initiatives of any kind to our growers, it is paramount that new procedures be pre-vetted in order to help ensure continued financial sustainability and also to make sure any unintended consequences are thoroughly analyzed."
Through Naturipe Farms’ continued progression in their sustainability efforts, they have been recognized by Walmart as a Giga Guru through Project Gigaton, their initiative to reduce emissions in the global value chain by 1 billion metric tons, or a gigaton, by 2030.