How to make your banana supply chain sustainable

written by IFCO SYSTEMS, 28th September 2021, in Stories

IFCO is committed to supporting the transformation of the banana supply chain into a sustainable and efficient operation. As Michael Meierhöfer, the IFCO resident expert on the banana industry and a veteran in the sector, explains, this requires an in-depth understanding of the global fresh grocery supply chain, real-world trials, and considerable investment in an end-to-end reusable packaging solution. The result: you can rely on IFCO expertise to make your banana supply chain sustainable.

The journey to transform the banana supply chain

Thanks to their versatility, affordability and health benefits, bananas remain one of the most popular and nutritious snacks worldwide. The banana supply chain, however, is not always viewed in the same favorable light. Especially when it comes to sustainability.

"Our goal at IFCO is to make the fresh grocery supply chain sustainable for every type of fruit and vegetable, as well as for meat, fish, eggs and baked goods. Naturally, this ambitious target covers bananas, too," explains Michael Meierhöfer, Vice President Sales, New Market Verticals at IFCO, and the company’s resident expert on the banana supply chain.

"Understanding the complex and interconnected networks, systems and activities behind every banana in the stores is key to making the banana supply chain sustainable," he adds

When was the first reusable banana crate launched?

"Fresh produce transportation strategies are key areas in which IFCO excels," explains Meierhöfer. Roughly 30 years of experience in designing, producing and pooling Reusable Plastic Containers (RPCs) is packed inside IFCO innovations. The first IFCO RPC was developed in the early 1990s.

And the first IFCO reusable banana crate, the Caja Oro, along with a customized version of the IFCO SmartCycle™ closed loop pooling system specifically for the unique challenges of the global banana trade, was launched in the US over 15 years ago. Meierhöfer was the person responsible for its launch across Europe."Our experience and success lie in increasing food safety while reducing food and solid waste, energy use and water consumption. All of these goals have priority when you are aiming for a sustainable supply chain, whatever the produce," adds Meierhöfer.

Learnings from the first generation of banana RPCs, the Caja Oro, have been plugged into the next generation of reusable crates: the Banana Lift Lock.

4 key sustainability benefits from plantation to point of sale

How does the design of the Banana Lift Lock and the IFCO SmartCycle™ support and ensure a sustainable logistics operation that usually stretches from one end of an ocean to the other?

The design of the IFCO Banana Lift Lock tackles the issues and challenges that start at the plantation and end with today’s informed consumers. We’ve identified the main challenges and summarized how IFCO innovations target them directly. Here, we provide an overview of four compelling unique benefits of the Banana Lift Lock that, when it comes to sustainability, set our end-to-end packaging apart.

4 compelling unique benefits of the Banana Lift Lock

A circular design ensures sustainability

Decarbonization and zero carbon goals are top priorities in today’s fresh grocery supply chain. The IFCO SmartCycle™ closed pool supports both. Reusable banana packaging helps eliminate one-way containers and all the waste and carbon emissions that come with them. Removing single-use packaging from the industry promotes sustainability throughout the chain.

"With the IFCO circular economy model, we ensure 100% reutilization of the material from our RPCs at end-of-service," explains Meierhöfer. "There is zero waste."

"The IFCO SmartCycle™ targets at least three kinds of waste along the supply chain — food waste, energy waste and solid waste," adds Meierhöfer. "By maximizing circularity and efficiency through the IFCO proprietary closed loop pooling system, we minimize our own and our customers’ carbon emissions and carbon footprint."

A smart design tackles supply chain inefficiencies

"The banana supply chain is very long, surprisingly complex and still relies very much on manual labor," explains Meierhöfer. "Production and harvesting processes are generally not automated on any level."

The customized design of the Banana Lift Lock improves handling to promote a safer, faster, and more efficient banana packaging and easier handling processes at every step of the chain. Where appropriate, the standardized footprint also supports fresh produce automation across transport, banana ripening processes and order-picking operations.

What’s more, as with the whole range of IFCO RPCs, the precise dimensions and robust standardized footprint of the Banana Lift Lock contribute to savings in stOroge and sustainable reverse logistics. Compared to other crates, IFCO RPCs have the lowest folded height, which means you get more RPCs on each pallet, which results in fewer truckloads and higher cost efficiencies. And another crucial benefit: reduced CO2 emissions.

A robust design protects from damage

Typically, banana transportation can take several weeks from plantation to consumer, depending on the destination, and will invariably involve multiple forms of transport and multiple players.

Not every crossing or changeover is guaranteed to be smooth. And every bump in the road — literally and figuratively — could affect the quality of the sensitive produce at the destination and resource-efficiency of the entire supply chain. The robust nature of the Banana Lift Lock protects the delicate produce from damage and spoilage.

A ventilated design has a cooler vibe

"Banana transportation is tough and requires accurate temperature control throughout," explains Meierhöfer. The Banana Lift Lock secures a cool and stable temperature throughout shipment. The design enhances airflow and thermal distribution, resulting in cooling rates that are more rapid and uniform throughout the pallet and each crate.

And finally, bananas need to ripen on demand and in time for delivery to the retailers. "Ideally, the ripening process should be precisely controlled so that the retailers receive the bananas in the individual shade of green or yellow they requested," adds Meierhöfer.

The IFCO Banana Lift Lock supports timely delivery of bananas at the desired degree of ripening, with no evidence of damage, bruising or chilling injuries at point of sale.

In the end, all these benefits combine to improve the appearance, appeal, and shelf life of fresh bananas at the display point of sale, as well as providing a fresh produce that aligns with the values and sustainability concerns of today’s consumers.

Banana logistics innovation based on real-world trials

When you want an end-to-end solution that will work for the whole banana value chain, from point of origin to point of sale, you need to bring together all the stages of that chain. "Such a collective approach identifies the issues, provides workable solutions, and ultimately accelerates the sustainability transformation in the banana supply chain that we all know we need," adds Meierhöfer.

One such comprehensive trial in 2018, for instance, was organized with SIIM, a subsidiary of the international group, Omer-Decugis & Cie that focuses on fresh and exotic fruits and vegetables.The trial involved Selvatica bananas from Ecuador, which were transported in IFCO RPCs for the entire journey through to the iconic International Market of Paris-Rungis for ripening and then on to customers across Europe. Today, SIIM continues to ship their bananas from the Ecuador plantation to point of sale in IFCO Banana Lift Lock crates. The reason?

"Using the IFCO reusable crates supports our sustainability targets and decarbonization processes," explains Vincent Omer-Decugis, CEO of Omer-Decugis & Cie. "The robustness of these RPCs also helps preserve product quality and the environment." SIIM’s successful experience for their banana supply chain convinced the company to transport not only bananas, but also its Extra Sweet Terrasol pineapples in IFCO reusable crates directly from the packing stations in Ecuador to the customers in Europe. Interestingly,SIIM has achieved carbon neutrality for this particular supply chain, making these exotic fruits the first "carbon neutral" pineapples in the world, measured all the way from the company’s plantations in Ecuador to its Rungis platform in France.

Numerous trials have determined that the new reusable Banana Lift Lock design targets the very issues that key players in the industry are keen to solve.

How does the end-to-end packaging solution ensure sustainability?

Michael Meierhöfer VP Sales, New Market Verticals

Shipping fresh bananas sustainably across the world — in all seasons and in increasingly tight time frames — calls for precise logistic operations and optimum protection for the fresh produce. As Meierhöfer summarizes: "With the reusable Banana Lift Lock, IFCO is bringing the key principles of the circular economy to every step of the banana supply chain, from plantation through to point of sale. Our expertise in sustainable reusable packaging for the fresh grocery supply chain will benefit banana plantations, ripening specialists, retailers, and, ultimately, consumers and the environment."

Would you like to try out the IFCO reusable packaging for bananas?

We would be happy to advise you on the benefits of the IFCO Banana Lift Lock and arrange a free trial.

I agree to receiving communications from IFCO and the processing of my personal data. From time to time, we would like to contact you (e.g. via e-mail) to inform you about our products and services, as well as other content that may be of interest to you. If you consent, please tick the checkbox. Visit our privacy policy for more information. *

* required field

These articles will also be interesting for you

Good news for retailers: a fresh interest in more home cooking

learn more

Why the world should follow Europe’s lead when it comes to the circular economy

learn more

Stay up to date

Want the latest fresh food packaging industry knowledge delivered straight to your inbox? Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news, trends, articles and more!

I agree to receiving communications from IFCO and the processing of my personal data. From time to time, we would like to contact you (e.g. via e-mail) to inform you about our products and services, as well as other content that may be of interest to you. If you consent, please tick the checkbox. Visit our privacy policy for more information. *
shareshareshare