Product Positioning Study For: Elemental Foods Organic Blueberries — A Proposal For A More Sustainable Packaging Solution

credited: Joanna Kosinska

credited: Joanna Kosinska

 

Packaging Sustainability
Spring 2019

Sustainability Focus:
This product repositioning proposal used sustainability as its core ethic when researching and determining the best packaging alternatives for our client (company focus chosen for this proposal).

Objective Focus:
This product repositioning proposal was the final culmination of the research and analysis we gathered during the course. The focus was to prepare a strategic presentation that would help our client develop innovative, cost effective, and forward thinking solutions to their product packaging needs.

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Introduction

This proposal will suggest options for Matetic Farms to reposition and highlight its organic and biodynamic grown blueberries in the marketplace through establishing a more sustainable packaging system that is more aligned with their company’s commitment to the environment, community, people and love for the earth.

credited: Matetic Farms website

credited: Matetic Farms website

Vision and Values

credited: Matetic Farms website

credited: Matetic Farms website

Blueberries are the first brand venture under the label Elemental Foods, and seems to be the only Matetic Farms’ produce imported into the U.S. The brand is relatively young, starting up on marketing outreach in the fall of 2018. Whole Foods is the company’s only partner and seller in the U.S. but they seem to market globally, indicated by the dual languages and certifications for USDA organics, CERES organics, and DEMETER biodynamic. Owner of the Elemental Foods’ trademark in the U.S. is Agricola Ceres Ltda, a global importer in Chile.

credited: Matetic Farms website

credited: Matetic Farms website

Blueberry Market

Blueberries have become a consumer favorite not only for their easily eatable form and “snackability” nor their ability to bring across the delights of summer, but most recently for their promoted healthy image as an antioxidant berry that can provide everything we need all year long—vitamin C, potassium, phosphorus, iron, needed fiber, and even as a protector against free radicals. Due to the growing demand globally, more and more blueberry farms are popping up and hitting the store shelves. A variety of hybrid varieties have made it possible to meet the demand by growing blueberries in landscapes that were once inhabitable for the crop. Aside from the offering of fresh blueberries, businesses have found other ways to bring blueberries to their consumers, offering them flash frozen, dried, or preserved in jelly’s and jams.

To cater to the year-round demand for fresh berries, blueberries have become a part of the global market with many South American and Mexican companies fulfilling the off-season demand of the fruit between the months of October and March before the North American and European season kicks off again from April to late September.

Thus, this meeting of demand year-round has led to an expectation --for many western world consumers--that blueberries are expected on their shelf whenever, wherever. Even trending antioxidant products like acai, goji, pitaya (dragon fruit), guanabana, olive oil and matcha powder haven’t seemed to dampen the demand for blueberries.

Local Market Environmental for Elemental

The first noticeable detail about any berry sold on Hawaiiʻs store shelves is their out of country or continental U.S. origin. Aside from a steady strawberry production from Kula Country Farms on Maui, no other local berries are commercially grown for exportation or to feed the local community. During blueberry season, 10 states within the U.S. have put their agriculturally diverse lands to produce for the global demand of blueberries, engineering new types (like “Southern Highbush” varieties) that can fit into new agricultural environments such as California, Georgia, and even Florida. Hawaiʻi receives berries mostly from locations from the U.S. West Coast, Mexico and South America—the nearest locations for shipping fresh produce to the worldʻs most isolated islands.

As shipment is necessary, all fruits imported into Maui come by way of freight containers. From the producers, berries are promptly taken to cooling centers where they are stored on pallets and tested for quality insurance. Once tested, they return to the plates and are cooled in tunnels until they reach a temperature of 33 degrees F. They are then loaded into refrigerated shippers — the largest companies for Maui being Matson and Pasha.

Packaging Market

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A sea of shiny clamshells…

As far as packaging goes, there is no diversification of blueberry-- or any berries—in Maui stores that distinguishes one berry from another aside from their sticker brand label. Elemental Foods is included in this sea of standard packaging practices. All supermarket blueberries are encased in a petroleum-based polymer clamshell that have either press down tabs or lips. In all of the Hawaiian islands, berry clamshell containers are not recyclable.

According to many recyclers, there is no American market that wants berry clamshells as they are extremely difficult to recycle because they need a specialized temperature for recycling that differ from bottles, and if by accident they are mixed with reclaimed plastics from bottles, they would contaminate the entire batch of recycled product.

Packaging that can keep the berries good for long transportation over rough seas in refrigerated containers is key to making sure that the berries stay in prime condition so that they are bought in stores. Considering the entire journey from distribution to the consumer’s home will be important.

No Noticeable Packaging Diversification

As far as packaging goes, there is no noticeable diversification of blueberry packaging —or any berries for that matter— in local Maui stores that help to distinguish one berry from another, aside from the sticker label which is the main draw and point of differentiation.

All are encased in a petroleum-based polymer clamshell that either has press-down tabs or lips. In all of the Hawaiian Islands, and the U.S.,produce clamshells from PET to PP plastics are not economically feasible to recycle as there is no American market for the materials and because they are challenging to recycle as they need a specialized temperature for recycling that differ from their bottle forms. If by accident they are mixed with reclaimed plastics from bottles, they would contaminate the entire batch of recycled product.

With the growing public outrage surrounding one-use plastic, there have been a few players within the industry that are starting to explore alternatives, as well as those within other produce niches in need of the same packaging needs. One direct competitor taking action is, Naturipe who has started with heat foil lids to minimize the plastic use for some of their products, and has collaborated with Earthcycle packaging to come up with a palm leaf tray to appeal to their organic blueberry consumers.

Top Shelf Competitiors

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Competitive Environment

As Elemental Foods is currently tied only to Whole Foods locations, the position in Whole Foods was where the first investigation took place. Following that competitor stores were used for comparison to see the berry section layout as well as compare shelf competitor brands on price, size, aesthetic look, and packaging.

In Whole Foods, the berry section is the first thing customers come across when entering the store. There is one prime location directly in the view of by-passers entering the store (usually reserved for berry and produce sale items), and one main section to the side of the entry door where all berries (organic and conventional) are marketed together—strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries as well as marketed items that go well with berries.

Neighboring fruit sections are grapes, mangos, lychee, papaya and avocados which rotate based on season and promotions.

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SWOT: Observed Opportunities

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Market Segment Groups: Survey Respondents

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What opportunities for Elemental Foods are revealed when examining consumer desire and demand in the blueberry market?

Survey Setting for Berries and Respondents

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General Feedback

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Packaging Function and Material

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Opportunity Summary

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The blueberry market is a competitive arena where price does play a huge roll in the sea of seasonal brands, however, there are great opportunities to explore based on the feedback generated from the survey group:

Many consumers find Elemental Foods’ brand and look desirable on the shelf compared to competitors, though they’ve never heard of the brand before. How to create brand loyalty for the company and make them known for great, healthy blueberries?

Consumers prefer organic blueberries if given the choice. As price matters on the shelf, making the packaging special and aesthetically crafted may pull buyer interest even if the brand is slightly more expensive. How to make packaging cost effective?

The current packaging serves a useful, dual purpose as a washing and storing container for consumers, yet consumers would see higher value in the product if it was a non-plastic packaging for berries. How to keep this packaging function with an alternative material?

All current berry packaging in U.S. supermarkets are made of the same standard plastic clamshell— usually PET #1 or PP #5. A less excessive and waste-free container was something that most