(July 2) The Produce Marketing Association is accepting submissions for its PMA Impact Awards, a new program to recognize excellence and innovation in produce packaging.

PMA created the awards to honor a member company leading the industry in packaging, but it also emphasizes the role packaging plays in produce merchandising.

“It’s not just about highlighting the winning company,” said Lorna Christie, senior vice president of industry products and services. “It’s about packaging’s role in merchandising, in satisfying customers’ expectations and living up to expectations of corporate responsibility.”

Members of the PMA’s packaging council spent months planning the competition after the idea surfaced in a brainstorming session, said Ron McCormick, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for produce and floral and the council’s chairman.

“We were looking for ways to draw more attention to packaging,” he said. “Packaging is a rapidly changing field with lots of new technology surfacing and innovation going on. We felt that increasing the visibility of packaging would push it to the front of people’s minds.”

Judges will analyze how responsive packaging is to the produce industry’s varied needs, according to the PMA Web site, whether the packaging was designed to catch a customer’s eye, protect a product in transit, extend shelf life or increase efficiency.

All submissions must be made by July 31. Nomination forms and instructions for the competition can be found at www.pma.com/packagingaward/.