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June 19, 2012

Produce packaging influences purchases

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Long before deciding on “paper or plastic” at the checkout, shoppers make a plethora of choices at the grocery store, especially in the produce aisle.

Packaging influences the way fruits and vegetables are chosen by consumers, according to a Michigan State University study.

The study found that shoppers prefer to purchase produce that come in a rigid, bio-based plastic container with a long shelf life and a low price. So much so that consumers will opt for sweet cherries in these kinds of containers rather than the loose ones in a bag.

“Consumers believe the type of packaging material could affect the quality of the food product, and the rigid container may provide better protection compared to the flexible bag,” said Georgios Koutsimanis, MSU packaging researcher. “The preference for bio-based versus petroleum-based plastics shows an increased awareness of the environmental aspects of packaging materials.”

Until now, not much research had been conducted regarding packaging’s influence on the purchasing patterns of fresh produce, he added.

A team of MSU researchers, led by Koutsimanis and Eva Almenar, assistant professor of packaging, conducted the study that surveyed about 300 participants.

“The results will primarily enable the fresh produce industry to develop packaging concepts and systems that better meet consumers’ needs and preferences,” Koutsimanis said. “In turn, consumers will benefit from an enhanced packaging convenience and a produce shelf life extension matching current lifestyles.”

The study will be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Appetite.


Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.