(Oct. 18) HOUSTON — Ron McCormick was a little concerned by the produce industry’s initial response to the Produce Marketing Association’s first Impact Awards contest for packaging.

There was no need.

“Entries started off slow,” said McCormick, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for produce and floral at Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and chairman of PMA’s packaging council. “We were worried that we didn’t focus enough on the right areas that people were interested in. Then they just started pouring in. We were thrilled with the number of entries.”

More than 100 entries eventually made their way to PMA’s Newark, Del., office.

Seven companies were recognized in five categories Oct. 13 during PMA’s Fresh Summit 2007:

  • Food safety/traceability: Perfection Fresh Australia Pty. Ltd. was recognized for its tamper-evident container.

  • Functionality/technology: Apio Inc., Menlo Park, Calif., and Mann Packing Co. Inc., Salinas, Calif., both were recognized for products that combined trays and film seals. Apio’s entry featured its Breatheway packaging, while Mann was recognized for its Ready Set Steam line of microwaveable vegetable and sauce items.

  • Marketing design/messaging: Monterey Mushrooms Inc., Watsonville, Calif., won for its line of microwaveable sliced mushroom bags.

  • Merchandising/transportability: Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash., won for its Piñata apple display box; and

  • Sustainability: Two Vancouver, British Columbia companies — Earthcycle Packaging Ltd. and The Oppenheimer Group — won a joint entry for Oppenheimer’s four-count kiwifruit packed in biodegradable and compostable Earthcycle trays.