Financial Data
Updated 20 Jul 2018

The science of fruit packaging and why you need to invest in it

A refined method of packaging could fundamentally change your agribusiness, especially if you optimise and innovate like the leaders in your sector. 

Nicole Crampton, 12 August 2017  Share  0 comments  Print

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“There was a growing understanding of the pre-cooling process and cold chain management of fresh produce, such as fruit, but hardly any scientific research available on the impact of packaging and packaging design on fruit quality and shelf life,” says Prof Linus Opara. 

“The turning point in packaging design came with the growing realisation that fruit continue to breathe and lose heat and moisture after harvesting. “This indicates that fruit required high humidity and low-temperature storage for the best post-harvest outcomes.”

If you want to ensure the quality of your internationally exported fruit, you need to invest in a properly optimised packaging design. If you don’t look into better packaging, your fruit might not make the journey unharmed, which could result in some (if not all) of your harvest being discarded on the other side.

Related: 4 Packaging trends that will have your products flying off the shelf


You will need specialised packaging for various markets, as fruit have different display requirements. Keep in mind that your production process and supply chain management also have an impact on produce spoilage. Both have to be taken into account to achieve optimised packaging and a competitive edge for your fruit offerings.

Here are three reasons from Prof. Opara why you need to look into the science of packaging:

1. Reduce costs 

Optimising your packaging can result in a new cost-effective design that can improve your fruits’ journey. “By using fewer layers inside cartons, the industry can significantly reduce its pre-cooling energy costs and environmental footprint without adversely affecting produce quality,” the professor says. If you keep your fruit protected and cooler, you can reduce costs, especially when you consider the cost of cooling an international shipment.

2. Address fruit weight-loss

If you use the wrong packaging for apples, for example, the shipment could weigh less by the time it reaches your international buyer. This means that you could sell your buyer 20 tons of apples and only ‘19 tons’ arrives on the other side. You can imagine the friction this can cause between supplier and customer if it happens again and again.

Related: Packaging in South Africa is always changing shape

“For one of our studies, we investigated fruit weight loss and cooling rates in export apples. Closer evaluation of the packaging design and packaging material revealed that the ventilation holes were the problem,” says Opara. He adds that the ventilation holes worked perfectly when used individually, but when cartons are stacked on top of each other in transit, they become blocked. “Adjustments to the positioning of the ventilation holes can help to rectify this issue,” he explains.

Optimising, and improving your current packaging can help your agribusiness save costs, deliver undamaged fruit and be able to reuse packaging creating further savings. “You need to be innovative. You can’t afford to become dependent on other countries for the latest technologies to increase productivity and add value; otherwise, you’ll merely play catch-up,” says Opara.


Optimising your packaging can result in a cost-effective design that can improve your fruits journey. The wrong packaging can have ill effects on your fruit causing them to shrink and lose mass.
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About the author

Nicole Crampton

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