From Vanguard International CEO's Desk: Are Edible Peels the New Plastic?
ISSAQUAH, WA - When you have big ideas, you want to be heard. When you just so happen to be the CEO of Vanguard International, you will be heard. Craig Stauffer, CEO of Vanguard, took pen to paper for a new initiative the company is dubbing “From the CEO’s Desk.” And what, pray tell, moved the CEO to write his thoughts out? Edible peels.
“We’ve been using plastic in produce aisles for decades—and for good reason,” Stauffer started off in his letter. “Of the 78 million metric tons of plastic packaging produced globally each year, a mere 14 percent is recycled. Nine million tons of that plastic escapes collection annually.”
Stauffer mentions that plastic has provided a solution for so many functions within the produce industry that it becomes nearly impossible not to rely on it, such as:
- Growers, distributors, and retailers alike to cut down on food waste;
- Consumers to see the colorful, fresh produce they’re purchasing;
- Growers to brand their produce and add additional attractive selling features on package;
- Retailers to charge per package (scannable UPC codes) versus per pound or per kilo (commonly referred to as random weight) and offer the ever-important convenience items like ready-made salad bowls and pre-cut veggies.
Therefore, it’s becoming increasingly important to understand how this is affecting our global environmental footprint as an industry, and shift focus to sustainable alternatives.
“We’ve seen efforts to cut plastic waste from top seal innovation, led by strong players in the industry like Oleen Smethurst, GMM for Produce at Costco Canada,” Stauffer continued. “I’ve seen firsthand how passionate Oleen is about reduction of waste. She has been a driving force of top seal implementation across the produce industry, aligning with the growing drive in North America towards sustainability.”
Top seal allows for the same quality and freshness to be delivered in packaging using 25 percent less plastic, promotes longer shelf-life, and allows for easier stacking to reduce transportation costs. Oleen continues to advocate for this innovation from vendors at Costco Wholesale Canada, setting an example for a whole industry on how these are current problems, with current solutions.
But what about the edible peels? Greenhouse growers Houweling’s and Apeel Sciences were showcasing a Long English Cucumber that ditches the plastic wrap, instead using a plant-based edible peel.
“Apeel Sciences is an innovation company focused on reducing food and plastic waste. They have developed products for USDA Organic Certified and worked with partners ranging from small farmers and local organic growers to some of the world’s largest food brands,” Stauffer elaborated. “They use plant-derived materials that exist in natural peels of fruit and vegetables, seeds, and pulp, to create packaging solutions that are both edible and protective enough to replace the need for plastic. They aim to double or triple the shelf life of numerous types of produce, which promotes sustainable growing practices, better food quality, and less waste!”
Another alternative that Stauffer is keen on is corrugated packaging. Corrugated boxes are made from a high amount of recycled material and can be recycled again after use.
“What the leading packaging of produce looks like in the future is still not entirely clear, but the industry is certainly talking about the issue of waste more than ever before. We are actively involved in these conversations, and will share more in 2020 around our own packaging developments and evolution,” concluded Stauffer.
We at ANUK are equally eager to hear more from the industry and Stauffer on the issue. Keep following us as we continue to report on the latest.