Banana RPCs: global produce company will debut the reusable plastic containers in select Texas markets, setting the path to decrease the environmental impact of banana packaging in the produce industry.
MIAMI – Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc., one of the world’s leading vertically integrated producers, marketers, and distributors of high-quality fresh and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables, is embarking on a strategic partnership with Arena Packaging, a leading packaging, design, and pooling company in North America, to introduce Reusable Plastic Containers (RPCs) for bananas. The groundbreaking invention aims to transform industry standards for the leading fruit in fresh produce, while significantly reducing food waste, carbon emissions, operational costs, and preserving the fruit’s health.
With the introduction of RPCs, banana shipments now enjoy improved airflow and extended shelf life. RPCs are not only reusable but also trackable, with a remarkable life cycle of up to 15 years. Each container will be reused approximately five times in a single year, and if damaged, individual parts can be collected, replaced, and repurposed. According to company officials, the project is in commercial launch mode at present, with packing and shipping from Guatemala, coming in through Galveston, and into select Texas markets. Negotiations are still ongoing regarding the further expansion of RPC usage. Arena will provide the RPCs as well as the pooling solution to manage them, with wash operations near the southern ports as well as reverse logistics provision for the new program.
Banana RPCs from Arena address Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Fruit Quality, and Shipping Density
“Making produce more sustainable for consumers, from the farms to the shelves, has always been a top priority for Fresh Del Monte,” said Hans Sauter, Fresh Del Monte’s Chief Sustainability Officer and SVP of R&D. “By emphasizing the reuse of packaging materials, we aim to reduce our environmental footprint, while promoting a circular economy of plastics. After years of collaborative work, this groundbreaking RPC design not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions but addresses fruit quality and pallet shipping density ensuring sustainable impact at every level of our supply chain. Alliances such as this one serve as another example of how we’re always seeking ways to improve our operations with business partnerships that strive to achieve a more sustainable future.”
For the past 60+ years, bananas have traditionally been shipped in single-use cardboard boxes, typically holding up to 40 pounds per box. These boxes are then transported to grocery stores, where bananas are air-stacked in the back room, a labor-intensive manual process that takes between 20 to 40 minutes to complete. Although cardboard is widely recyclable, developing options where packaging is reused is a first step in fighting climate change. Prior to that, bananas were shipped by the stalk hanging from hooks in cargo ships, which led to the bananas arriving at their destinations in poor condition. The implementation of the Banana RPC has also resulted in an overall healthier-looking fruit out on the shelf, with less handling throughout the supply chain.
While the use of bananas for RPCs is established in some markets, including Japan, it hasn’t previously gained traction in North America, although efforts to establish RPCs for banana imports have been made over the past decade. In 2021, IFCO announced its banana Lift Lock crate.
“Our collaboration with Fresh Del Monte Produce is set to redefine the entire process of packing, shipping, ripening, storing, and merchandising bananas,” said Tony Arena, Founder and CEO of Arena Packaging. “This marks a significant milestone in our shared mission to establish a more sustainable and circular packaging system. Arena Packaging’s innovative Banana RPC is the result of years of dedicated design and validation supported by industry veteran Jim Vangelos and Fresh Del Monte’s Sales VP, Mike Naftel and Senior Director of Global Packaging, Christian Salnars. The Arena Banana RPC reduces the carbon footprint by 90% over a traditional corrugated banana carton.”
Through this strategic collaboration and collective effort, Fresh Del Monte and Arena Packaging prove that businesses can achieve more when they work together.
The Banana RPCs arrived at retail stores in the South Texas region last month, offering consumers an eco-friendly and convenient way to enjoy their favorite fruit.
To learn more about Fresh Del Monte’s sustainability efforts, visit freshdelmonte.com/our-approach/.
About Fresh Del Monte
Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. is one of the world’s leading vertically integrated producers, marketers, and distributors of high-quality fresh and fresh-cut fruit and vegetables, as well as a leading producer and distributor of prepared food in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. markets its products worldwide under the DEL MONTE® brand (under license from Del Monte Foods, Inc.), a symbol of product innovation, quality, freshness, and reliability for over 135 years. The company also markets its products under the MANN™ brand and other related trademarks.
About Arena Packaging
Arena Packaging, along with affiliate Arena Products, are pioneers in innovative reusable transport packaging systems. Arena has over 30 years of experience providing continuous innovation under the leadership of founder and CEO Tony Arena. The family-owned firm provides products and services to a wide range of vertical markets. Examples include dairy, fresh produce, non-hazardous chemicals, and HBA. Arena integrates design, engineering, manufacturing, and pooling services, driving sustainability, improved packaging performance and supply chain efficiency. The company’s Rochester, New York headquarters features a state-of-the-art Packaging Test Laboratory and technical team that performs dynamic and environmental testing necessary for successful product launches and enhancements.