With increasing trends toward consumer spending on ‘ready to use’ and carefully packaged fresh produce, the NaturaFresh range aims to deliver clean, fresh, and hygienic produce, free from bruising and wilting.

The challenge of the design brief for Bayly Design was to create flexible enclosure formats, unique in appearance and form, while offering clear, high quality presentation of the carried goods.

The design has been registered by their client, PlantStra Pty Ltd, to maintain a competitive advantage, and will be produced and sold Australia-wide through large supermarket chains and other food retailers. The long-term strategy is to secure sales off-shore.

According to Bayly Design, the containers not only protect the product through the supply chain, the NaturaFresh disc feeds and preserves the lettuce long after harvesting, ensuring a fresh premium product for the consumer every time.

As part of its submission to the Australian Design Awards, Bayly Design highlighted the main features of the product: “The base of the container has three undercut features which hold the NaturaFresh disc.

This disc is a source of life-giving water and natural plant metabolites imparting the preservation of freshly harvested lettuce products in their natural state. Additionally, this disc eliminates the unsightly enzymatic browning on stalk and leaves commonly associated with minimally processed lettuce products.”

“The total enclosure of the fresh goods prevents airborne and hand-transferred contaminants such as germs and microbes from coming into contact with the pre-washed and prepared product. The NaturaFresh containers protect the ready-to-serve produce from being contaminated and ultimately protects the consumer’s well being.

“The designers worked closely with suppliers and distributors of fresh produce to ensure all utility requirements were met for packing, storing, transportation stockhandling and consumer interaction aspects.”

Curve went looking for the detail in the design and development of the lettuce pack that is setting new standards for fresh food packaging. Belinda Stening spoke with Jo Fleming from Bayly Design and Dr John Vella, from PlantStra Pty Ltd

Jo, can you explain how the ‘disc’ works?

The disc is pre-soaked with water and natural plant metabolites that are slowly released to preserve and maintain the lettuce’s natural state and to eliminate enzymatic browning associated with cut and  processed lettuce leaves and stalks. The disc’s properties extend the life of the product by two to four weeks and help keep the product fresh until consumed.

The disc is ‘snapped’ into place in the base of the container right before the harvested product is inserted.

Does the packaging increase the price of the fresh produce? Are they premium products anyway?

The NaturaFresh packaging does increase the price of the produce, however, compared to its counterpart products, it dramatically reduces preparation time and wastage of produce, because the consumer can take as much as they need and re-close the container to keep the rest of the product fresh.

The produce is of a premium anyway. Food products branded with the NaturaFresh logo are grown from the best naturally bred varieties that have been selected for their superior taste, colour, leaf texture and shape, natural resistance to pests and diseases and compatibility with growing systems that require minimal spraying of pesticides.

A further step in the PlantStra® growing system has given rise to a range of OrganoFresh® branded products which in fact will exclusively come from organically grown produce.

The combination delivered by the NaturaFresh range together with PlantStra systems to grow the products provides good value for money to the consumer.

What other vegetables can be packaged with the system?

Although specifically designed for a variety of lettuces (including Cos – long in shape and Iceberg – round in shape), and ready-to-eat salad products, the system can accommodate a variety of fruit and vegetables including: cherry tomatoes, baby Roma tomatoes and strawberries.

How many different lids and bases were developed? How many in the final range?

The initial range includes three different sizes (lids and bases); the versatility of the design will cater for up to six sizes using the same tooling.

How long did the project run for? At what stage did Bayly Design become involved?

The project ran for one year. Bayly Design was involved full time for the first eight months providing conceptual and detail design and prototyping manufacture. The last four months involved preparing for and commencing production.

What was the most challenging part of the project for you?

The most challenging part of the project for the Bayly Design team, was overcoming the limitations associated with thermoforming. Examples of this were the creation of seals, fastening features and undercuts.

Can you explain how you arrived at the shape and form of the packs?

The fundamental shape and form of the range was inspired by the natural produce it was to contain. The organic lines of the packaging are so close to those found in nature that the form accents the natural product ensuring that it is the dominant visual element.    

The scallop features that are designed as hand grips flow into three generous lobes inspired by features found on capsicums. 

What were the biggest constraints?

High volume, low cost tooling was one of the biggest design constraints. The thermoforming process is much more restrictive than injection moulding. An example of this was the difficultly in achieving the required strength (with such a thin, varying wall thickness and the absence of supporting ribs) using thermo-forming.

Dr. John Vella, from PlantStra Pty Ltd has a long history in the research and development of vegetable products and holds a doctorate in Agricultural Science.

John, as the client, what aspect of the project did you get most satisfaction from? Concept ideas, design development, prototyping?

The design development was the most rewarding part of the project for me, because it was the point where my vision was achieved with a tangible form.

What do you think is the most pleasing thing about the product design?

The multifunctional aspect of the design for both end consumer and our supply chains was definitely important. The presentation of the product was also critical for us.

What was it that made you aware of the need for this premium product? 

After specialising with lettuce production for twenty-five years and being in constant contact with end consumers, grocery shop owners and growers and breeders, we understood that the ‘clean and green’ need in the market had to be met, and that consumers wanted better value.

Was your idea led by science or did the requirement lead science?

In this case the demand led the science. We put our resources into finding the best varieties with pest and disease resistance and consulted Bayly Design to find a packaging solution that was attractive, economical, recyclable and multifunctional. Bayly Design’s expertise offered a super solution to us. We are very happy with the result.

What has been the reaction from the target market?

The response from the market has been fantastic. We first exposed the Naturafresh range to the market in Sydney during the Food Expo in late 2003. The consumers only saw the prototypes but wanted to place orders immediately. We were delighted with the response. 

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