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OPN Connect Newsletter 215 · April 29, 2021

In Their Words: Naturipe’s Janis McIntosh


Janis McIntosh is director of marketing innovation and sustainability at Naturipe Farms. She recently joined OPN for a conversation about Naturipe’s significant reduction of plastic in its packaging as well as some of the company’s other sustainability initiatives.

What is your background in the produce industry, and how did you become interested in sustainability?

I have worked in the produce industry, specifically for berry companies, for 25 years. I have held several positions at Naturipe Farms over the past 16 years, including Marketing Manager, Product and Packaging Manager, and currently Director of Marketing Innovation and Sustainability. Prior to Naturipe Farms, I worked for nine years for Coastal Berry (which was purchased by Dole in 2004).

Stemilt September 2021

Janis McIntosh, Director of Marketing Innovation and Sustainability, Naturipe Farms

My father introduced me to recycling long before recycling was a household word. I grew up in San Francisco, and my dad attended the University of San Francisco. In the University’s alumni newsletter, they mentioned that they were beginning to collect recycling the first Saturday of every month in their parking lot. From that day on, recycling became a passion in our home. Eventually, I turned that passion into my career, and to this day, it is what drives my decisions and work at Naturipe.

 

Organics Unlimited September 2021

Can you tell us about Naturipe’s plastic waste reduction efforts?

At Naturipe, enabling our family of farmers to produce fresh, high-quality fruit for our consumers around the world is our number one priority. At the same time, we are dedicated to operating the business with minimal impact on the environment. In fact, our Cultivate with Care™ program represents that commitment and ensures we continue to reduce our environmental footprint as a business while also keeping our growers financially sustainable.

Naturipe organic strawberries

Red Sun Farms September 2021

In 2020, Naturipe removed over 90 metric tons of plastic from our packaging, almost quadrupling the amount we reduced in 2019. This was the result of new technology we adopted in 2014 that replaced the rigid lid on the clamshell package with a thin piece of plastic, resulting in 33-percent less plastic. Our goal is to double our total plastic reduction in 2021.

At Naturipe, enabling our family of farmers to produce fresh, high-quality fruit for our consumers around the world is our number one priority. At the same time, we are dedicated to operating the business with minimal impact on the environment. - Janis McIntosh

It is undeniable that plastic plays a vital role in protecting our fruit to deliver high-quality berries to consumers. While part of our objective is reduced plastic in our packaging, the larger-picture, long-term goal is to eliminate the single use of berry clamshells and get them recycled at the same rate as water bottles. As we work with recyclers and packaging manufacturers and make advances in labeling (for easier recyclability), we are well on our way to achieving that goal.

Starr Ranch September 2021

How do you find out about the technological advances and initiatives that help Naturipe reduce plastic and become more sustainable?

To uphold our commitment to sustainability, Naturipe is always researching and looking for ways to expand our initiatives and meet our sustainability goals. One of the new technologies we utilize was introduced to us by Costco Canada who felt Naturipe would be a good fit to trial the new technology. They were a great partner, and together we perfected the technology. 

In 2020, Naturipe removed over 90 metric tons of plastic from our packaging, almost quadrupling the amount we reduced in 2019. - Janis McIntosh

We are constantly conducting research and innovating new solutions. Additionally, we’re never afraid to be the first to dive into the latest programs and technologies as long as the initiative will not negatively impact our grower families. This is paramount to all new endeavors we pursue—that our growers not only sustain the environment in which they grow but that they can financially sustain their families and farms as well.

NatureSafe September 2021

Naturipe organic blueberries

What other sustainability efforts have you undertaken at Naturipe?

In 2020, Naturipe joined the berry industry’s collaborative movement to the wash-away label, a label that washes off easily during the recycling process to ensure the packaging can be recycled. This label change is essential to the recyclability of berry packaging because although the clamshells are made of recyclable materials, the paper label can hinder the process. The new wash-away label, like water bottle labels, helps ensure that the clamshells can be easily recycled as intended.

Additionally, we’re never afraid to be the first to dive into the latest programs and technologies as long as the initiative will not negatively impact our grower families. - Janis McIntosh

In addition to taking steps to reduce plastic from our packaging, we’re going above and beyond and working to educate our loyal consumers by adding the “How2Recycle” label to all of our packaging. The label instructs consumers on best recycling practices and where to find information specific to their municipality.

"How2Recycle" label example

Additionally, we’re currently working to make the raspberry and blackberry clamshells more recyclable by changing the pad material and the glue that holds the pad in the package. Not only are we researching new multilayer 100-percent poly options for the padding, but we are also looking at adding messaging to the pad that will instruct consumers to remove it prior to recycling the clamshell. This will alleviate the issues the pad causes in the recycling process. We are also working closely with an adhesive manufacturer to identify glue alternatives that release cleanly from the PET clamshell.

Valent September 2021

Janis McIntosh, Director of Marketing Innovation and Sustainability, Naturipe Farms

What advice would you give to other produce companies when it comes to sustainable packaging?

When you consider a potential new packaging material, you must take into account the unintended consequences of the change. Can you source enough raw material needed to make the new packaging? Is there an infrastructure currently available to recycle or compost the new material? Will the new package protect and sustain the product and give the consumers the visibility they need to make that purchase decision? And most importantly, will this new packaging material be affordable to the grower and allow them to stay financially sustainable?