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Produce in compostable trays debuts on earth day

Four Seasons Produce Inc., Ephrata, PA, one of the largest independent produce wholesalers in the United States, began using compostable produce trays made of palm fiber from Earthcycle Packaging (www.earthcycle.com) for its entire organic packaging program. The repackaging was officially launched on Earth Day, April 22. Palm fiber trays compost in less than 90 days.
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Established in 1976, Four Seasons (www.fsproduce.com) entered into the organic market in 1996. It now represents 20% of the company’s product volumes, according to Daniel Chirico, vice president business development, Four Seasons. “This tells us there is a significant and growing consumer demand for organic products. Our packaged organic program Organic Made Easy provides retailers with a turnkey solution for this growing demand. We were thrilled to have discovered Earthcycle Packaging, a product that truly aligns with our company’s organic roots.”

Introduced in November 2005, Earthcycle’s compostable packaging is used in select Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Publix, Wild Oats, Capers and Henry’s Store locations. Four Seasons’ organic packaged fruit and vegetables in the Earthcycle trays will be available at select retailers throughout the Mid-Atlantic States. Retailers carrying the palm fiber trays include Millers Natural Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Wegmans Food Markets, according to Chirico.

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The packer is using six stock tray sizes for 8-oz to 20-oz net weight packs for a range of products from apples to kiwis (shown) to tomatoes. Besides the Four Seasons logo sticker, another pressure-sensitive label applied to the clear film that wraps each filled tray shows a child’s hand holding a little plant. The sticker says “Earthcycle Packaging. Renewable resource. Backyard Compostable.”

Chirico admits that the Earthcycle trays carry a premium over the molded pulp trays the company has been using for its organics, but the products maintain the same pricing as before. Chirico expects the company to make up for the increase in market gains through expanded distribution, he informs Packaging World.

When asked if the Earthcycle packaging would also be appropriate for nonorganic produce, Chirico responds, “this is a great packaging solution for all our products, but due to the incremental costs involved, we need to make sure it has consumer support as well.”

Regarding the Earth Day launch date, “what better time to raise awareness for an organic program that helps protect the natural world that sustains us?” asks Chirico.

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