Kenneth Marsh, Ph.D., CPP, sent this response after reading my December 2012 editorial entitled "Today's cause marketing: How it can be Business4Better." — Lisa Pierce
"Here are examples of synergies between packaging and one major cause, reducing global hunger. Long term benefits are substantial, but will not be realized in the short term.
"World food production is sufficient to feed every man, woman and child on the planet. Increases in food production are vital to keep pace with a growing population, but food loss and waste are estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations to be one third of production—1.3 billion tons per year. Packaging can reduce food loss and also be a significant contributor to economic development. Success in food loss reduction increases sales and packaging awareness.
"The primary role of packaging is protection, whether that be primary packaging to reduce oxidation, moisture change or insect/microbial access or transportation packaging to reduce crushing or other damage in distribution. It is more than coincidental that packaging usage per person is higher in the developed world and food availability is much greater. The benefits of (diverse) packaging are obvious to us but less so in many developing countries. Both use and quality of packaging is important to reduce food loss and impact sales.
"A study in Sri Lanka, for example, found that reusable plastic crates could reduce distribution damage of fresh produce from 25 percent to 5 percent. Plastic crates are much more expensive than jute bags and less used because of the cost difference, but incorporating the cost of loss helps justify the better packaging.
"Another example is the use of additional packaging for fresh produce in India that both reduced losses and afforded a higher price for that produce.
"Economic development has resulted from new cottage industries that offer value-added packaged food products. Ripe bananas, for example, last days, but packaged fried banana chips last for months and command higher prices. A village food processing program has already led to economic development in four countries in southeast Asia—yielding more food as well as enhanced economic security that helps purchase more food. None of this would be possible without packaging.
"Many companies in both developed and developing countries consider packaging as an expense that must be limited. Poor packaging impacts food protection and sales. Food protection is compromised by packaging that leaks or does not seal properly. In addition, the packaging "presentation" sells a product for the first time. High-quality products that are well known in their country of origin often fail on export because of non-competitive packaging. The Internet makes quality packaging available worldwide, so poor packaging is not a matter of availability, but rather attitude.
"Economic development in developing countries has many implications to packaging sales. Cottage industries (such as the banana chip example) need more packaging as their sales increase and development in poor villages brings in money that promotes further development. Increased availability of food also increases the energy of individuals to partake in development. The result is the growth of new markets. Although it is true that poor regions have low buying power, introduction of low cost/low margin packaging can support economic development in those regions, and a few cents profit multiplied by a billion people potential market can offer substantial sales.
"Increasing use and awareness of packaging to protect and distribute food, and by inference all other products, can both reduce hunger and increase packaging sales—a win-win situation."
Kenneth Marsh, Ph.D., CPP
Executive Director, Woodstock Institute for Science in Service to Humanity—promoting packaging to reduce food loss.
864-888-0011, [email protected]