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OPN Connect Newsletter 344 · November 2, 2023

Should Organic Fresh Produce Be Packaged or Unpackaged?


Time is of the essence with consumers who are seeking more convenience in their shopping trips, and packaged produce is a popular choice in today’s hectic lifestyle, with the growth of packaged produce in the US estimated to increase by close to 5 percent by 2030.

There are two questions that always seem to arise at a merchandising meeting regarding organic fresh produce. The first is, Should organic fresh produce be displayed in its own section or alongside its conventional counterpart. And the second question is, Should organic fresh produce be packaged or sold loose?

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Most produce departments are already displaying organic produce in a separate section. But there is a delicate balance when it comes to offering shoppers organic produce either packaged or loose, with advantages and disadvantages to these methods of merchandising.

Advantages of packaged organic produce:

  • Product is safer and secure.
  • Product is less susceptible to rough handling.
  • Closed packages keep the product clean.
  • Protects product from external bacteria.
  • Retains product quality.
  • Maintains freshness.
  • More convenient for shoppers.
  • Includes grower information and recipes.

Most produce departments are already displaying organic produce in a separate section. But there is a delicate balance when it comes to offering shoppers organic produce either packaged or loose, with advantages and disadvantages to these methods of merchandising.

Disadvantages of packaged organic produce:

  • Costs more to package the product.
  • Customers have to purchase more than they need.
  • The product on display does not appear natural.
  • Retails are higher on packaged items.
Vitalis April 2024

Advantages of loose organic produce:

  • Product looks more natural.
  • Customers can purchase smaller amounts.
  • Displays often have a more colorful presentation.
  • Product appears fresher.

Disadvantages of loose organic produce:

  • Product shelf life can decrease more rapidly.
  • Product is easily damaged from rigorous customer handling.
  • The product is more susceptible to bacteria due to touching.

During the COVID pandemic, manufacturers and retailers introduced more packaging to the produce departments, giving people additional protection from consumers handling loose fresh produce with their hands.

Customers are constantly touching surfaces and thus picking up microbes. For example, customers grab hold of a shopping cart handle when entering a store. How many other customers touched that same cart? What did they touch prior to that, and what microbes were left on the handle? What microbes were left on the several pieces of fresh loose produce that was touched on the display?

Hand-to-hand or hand-to-food contact can transmit and spread bacteria during product processing. One of the most sensitive areas this could take place is the fresh-fruit and vegetable cutting and packing process in the produce back room. That is why it is always important for employees to wash their hands and wear plastic gloves in preparing the product.

Homegrown Organic Farms April 2024

During the COVID pandemic, manufacturers and retailers introduced more packaging to the produce departments, giving people additional protection from consumers handling loose fresh produce with their hands.

Some companies’ organic produce programs consist of all loose produce, while others have gone with a full packaged section. The most desirable program is one that is a combined section of both loose and packaged items, but ultimately it is up to company management to determine what program bests suits a given retailer's needs.

Before deciding what approach to take, try testing loose, packaged, or a combined section in just a couple of stores. Then determine the one that best fits your organic program. Let the sales movement help you make your decision.

Creekside Organics April 2024
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