NEW ORLEANS — Produce marketers who want to develop innovative packaging should take their cues from the snack food industry.

During United Fresh Produce Association’s global conference on produce technology innovation, Robert Verloop, executive vice president of marketing for Naturipe Farms LLC, Naples, Fla., said innovative packaging is more than just putting produce in different packaging.

Seminar shows proper produce packaging is key to innovation

Doug Ohlemeier

Brian Zomorodi (left), senior vice president of technology and quality for Ready Pac Produce Inc., Irwindale, Calif., talks with Angela Paymard, chairwoman of N2N Global, Longwood, Fla., during a May 5 United global conference on produce technology innovation in New Orleans.

“How can we enhance the snacking opportunities that are out there?” Verloop asked during the May 5 conference. “Everyone talks about healthy eating and childhood obesity issues, but what is preventing us changing the eating habits of our kids? We in production agriculture have to look at our products differently.”

Verloop explained the process Naturipe underwent when it launched its 1.5-ounce blueberry Berry Quick convenience snacks. He said the berry grower-shipper and marketer studied the snack food industry’s best practices and tried to apply them to Naturipe’s blueberry snacking packs.

“We didn’t think of them as blueberries, but thought of them as a convenience item,” he said. “We started from the premise that we are a convenience, a snack food, not just blueberries. That’s a different way to look at the business opportunities that are out there.”

Angela Paymard, chairwoman of N2N Global, Longwood, Fla., welcomed attendees to the daylong session. She highlighted past business failures and successes. She said innovation and finding new ways to produce, manufacture, manage, sell and market your business remains key to business survival.

“Unless you innovate and recognize what got you to that next place, in 50 years, your company may not exist,” she said. “There is no way around longevity. It’s easy to be a winner in an uptick. It’s when the markets tighten and the current of the river changes that our business model is tested and we figure out if our boat was built to our expectations.”

Innovation authority and motivational speaker Nicholas Webb, chief executive officer of Lassen Innovation, Redding, Calif., said innovation drives the produce industry on every level, every day.

Though U.S. inventors file 3,000 patents every week, he said less than 1% of a person’s creativity succeeds.

“It’s not about creativity,” Webb said. “We have excess creativity. The problem is, we create stuff that no one wants. And the way you fix that is through active listening. It’s your ability to create that connectivity.”

The seminar followed United Fresh 2011.