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Hollandia launches novel clamshell design for living lettuce

On June 13 of this year, Hollandia Produce LLC, which grows and packs the “Live Gourmet” brand of living lettuce, launched a test market of a novel clamshell design that, because of its unusual shape, was given the name “Squircle.”

Recently, the new Squircle clamshell and its accompanying “harness-style shipping carton” were named “one of 28 finalists in the 2011 PMA Impact Awards Excellence in Packaging competition,” according to a Sept. 28 Hollandia press release.

“In its fifth year, the PMA Impact Award is presented to companies recognized for maximizing all opportunities to sell more fresh produce and floral products through innovative packaging,” according to the release.

Vincent Chaote, director of marketing for Hollandia, was quoted in the release as saying, “The new Squircle design is an attractive improvement on the antiquated design of our original package that will help differentiate our ‘Live Gourmet’ Living Butter Lettuce from all other living lettuce” from other growers and shippers.

“An eye-catching, colorful and communicative label [complements] the new design and acts as a tamper-evident seal for the new package,” the release continued. “Target-consumer and frequent-user focus-group studies suggest the new optimized design achieves the goal of continued brand recognition while attracting first-time buyers with its colorful and distinctive design.”

The concept was years in development, Mr. Chaote told The Produce News Sept. 27. “It took a little longer than we wanted, but most things do.”

The initial idea behind the new package was a desire “to differentiate ourselves” from the many “new entries into the category” in terms of “the look and feel of the product,” after having used the same packaging design for “a great number of years,” he said. But “as the project evolved,” it began to focus on other objectives as well, such as “maximizing the units per pallet and source reduction of all the inputs that we use to make the clamshell and the box.” That then “led into even further consideration on how we might be able to optimize [the clamshell design] to facilitate easier packing, and reduce labor and [automate] some of the actual packing of the product.”

That is clearly a lot to ask of a packaging redesign. But Hollandia’s chief operating officer, Pete Overgaag, championed its development, Mr. Chaote said. “Once we had that initial discussion, he never let go of it and kept us all on our executive team focused on trying to achieve this.”

In the process, “there was a lot of time and resources devoted to it, and we, like everybody else, made missteps and learned from each little step.” In the end, “we feel we’ve got a real viable product in a package that really addresses source reduction and transportation and fuel savings and food miles and all those other things” in addition to having a unique visual appeal.

“As we started to delve into the project, it was apparent that there were other things that could be done in the process that would add value” for retail customers and for the consumer, Mr. Chaote said. “That is what it is about in the end.”

Hollandia packs three different types of living lettuce in the new clamshell, he said. “We do Butter lettuce, we do a red Butter lettuce and then we grow a three-in-one lettuce,” a colorful blend of Lollo Rossa, Lollo Bionda and Red Oak Leaf all grown together hydroponically and then, as with the other Hollandia living lettuce products, harvested with their roots intact and packaged in a manner that keeps the roots moist and, therefore, the lettuces alive.