High Flavor, Organic, and Conventional

The Eye of the Storm

The Eye of the Storm

I

t is calm at the center of a hurricane. Swirling, dark clouds engulf the never-ending sky around us, but still, in this place, our world remains intact.

I have not survived through such an event—not literally, anyway. But I know for many, the reality of COVID-19 was a natural disaster all its own.

And in the eye of the storm was Fox Packaging and Fox Solutions.

“Our vision is maintained,” says Keith Fox, President of Fox Packaging, when I ask how the pandemic changed Fox’s long-term plans. “COVID-19 brought about some new terminology, but ultimately—pre-COVID and post-COVID—we work to earn the partnership of fresh produce growers, packers, and shippers through innovative designs, consistent quality, and excellent service. We aim to be the premier packaging partner for the fresh produce industry.”

Keith sees the absolute surprise on my face and continues.

“COVID-19 showed us what we could do when it comes to producing for our customers—24 hours a day, seven days a week. It wasn’t perfect, but we learned about coming together,” he elaborates. “Our employees shone through and exemplified a dedication that demonstrated the culture we’ve been able to build throughout our years in business. People are at the center of our company; our success as packaging leaders is in our ability to enable our employees to overcome challenges.”

While a people-centric proposition is often characteristic of our industry, I quickly realize that Fox Packaging truly has a vision all its own. In March 2020, the provider’s teams took a collective deep breath, and rather than scramble to the source of the problem, they decided to divide and conquer.

“Instead of dedicating our workforce to the immediate need of running product, we designated teams whose separate focuses are on developing how Fox Packaging and Fox Solutions will be positioned in the coming years,” Keith tells me. “Although the ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach was a viable option, now having made it past the first few waves of unprecedented demand
for flexible packaging, we are pleased with how we allocated our response teams.”

“...ultimately—pre-COVID and post-COVID—we work to earn the partnership of fresh produce growers, packers, and shippers through innovative designs, consistent quality, and excellent service.”

Keith Fox, President, Fox Packaging

The world may seem unchanged when there are clear skies above you, but Fox and its teams looked straight into the storm and witnessed the holistic changes taking place in the packaging sector. Executive Vice President of Fox Packaging, Craig Fox, relays that the company saw the forest for the trees, taking these historic market shifts and turning them into secret weapons.

“Prices were increased across many facets of our supply chain, film was not readily available, and, all the while, orders were being stacked and demand was increasing phenomenally. Despite this, sustainability did not take a back seat, as our team prioritized research of material types and design optimization. By using this data and reinforcing our supplier relationships, we improved the efficiency of our product line,” Craig divulges, noting how this growth has paved the way for new fresh produce implementations as well. “Flexible packaging applications continue to expand to new product lines and types; the stand-up pouch bag is a staple that has now transitioned to e-commerce as it is a convenient design for store presentation and shipping and reduces product touchpoints. As automation technology advances, packaging will continue to be a design of preference for both buyers and consumers.”

While accelerated demand is certainly central to the conversation, packaging as a whole has been given a new lease on life.

“The way people are talking about packaging has changed tremendously; there is now an attention to detail that was not there prior,” he says. “Questions are being asked that would not have been in the conversation years ago, and Fox Packaging is excited for this. These conversations give opportunities to fortify our position in the circular economy as converters, and we can educate our customers in a way that sets us apart competitively.”

Fox isn’t just sitting around waiting for those questions to be asked. In fact, Victoria Lopez, Marketing for Fox Packaging, is posing several of them herself. And trust me, there
are plenty more that did not fit in these pages.

“When you transition from one packaging application to another, it is important to make comparisons to the end performance. Did you reduce the overall use of plastic in size and weight? Is it recyclable? Were fewer resources used during manufacturing? Quantify your data and share it with your audience, because, in terms of sustainability, each difference contributes to overall change and influences your brand’s reputation for being transparent in your decision-making. This is an honest way to build consumer loyalty to your brand,” Victoria explains.

Keith jumps back in, telling me how the review of designs and materials has continued to stay at the forefront of Fox’s packaging conversations. I have long been aware of the company’s commitment to sustainability, but my interview with these packaging thought leaders reinforced that knowledge.

“We have been proactive in communicating the importance of reviewing your packaging program to ensure the key features are addressed in an environmentally mindful way. Our sister company, Fox Solutions, has been working alongside us in review of our Stand-Up Pouch Program as we continue to develop designs that stand out on the shelf and can be seamlessly packed with pouch bagging automation,” Keith tells me. “Part of our culture is nurturing respectful and professional relationships. We understand our customers’ needs; in turn, our customers can reach out to us with packaging concept ideas and our team will realistically approach them. This type of collaboration is key when selecting a packaging partner.”

A refreshing passion for the produce industry is also at the forefront of Fox’s business. The provider is not simply bringing packaging to market, but it is introducing innovations in partnership with its fruit and vegetable customers. Aaron Fox, Executive Vice President of Fox Packaging and President of Fox Solutions, explains this to me in detail.

“Being part of the fresh produce sector is integral to our lives; we look at the industry in a very considerate way. It’s an accomplishment for our employees to see the finished bag packed and sitting on the store shelf. There is a huge sense of pride there, and that is reflected in the work we do every day,” Aaron says. “We are a packaging partner who will offer honest feedback and will recommend solutions suitable for your product and operations. There are new conversations happening in our industry, and we want our team to be the partner you go to when you need straightforward information, even on challenging subjects.”

Craig echoes these sentiments.

“Fox Packaging’s innovative culture can be attributed to our many years of service to the fresh produce industry. To be a continued resource to retailers, we have joined our customers in understanding various pain points such as sustainable design, messaging, distribution, and automation solutions. We have worked diligently to adapt our products to offer greater value-added options to be a direct packaging solution and partner,” he tells me. “Whether you are introducing a new pouch program or rebranding your product, there is always a way to capitalize on your packaging program that contributes to the story your brand wants to tell.”

This “brand story” takes me back to a topic that has come up several times in our discussion: design. With branding serving such a pivotal role in the success of today’s companies, the design aspect of Fox’s packaging innovations is not to be overlooked.

“...sustainability did not take a back seat, as our team prioritized research of material types and design optimization.”

Craig Fox, Executive Vice President, Fox Packaging

“The design allows brands to highlight their story through colors, messaging, and by communicating how they align with the consumer’s lifestyle,” Aaron points out. “Not only is communication through high graphics an enormous benefit, the sustainability features of a Fox Stand-Up Combo bag structure offer reduced carbon emission in transport due to the lightweight nature of the bag. As members of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, our Polyethylene pouch bag can feature the Store Drop-Off iconography, communicating its recyclability in participating store programs. We are sourcing our materials responsibly and qualifying them according to strict specifications. Ultimately, this contributes to a greater sustainable impact as the intent is to contribute to a circular economy with materials that add value to end markets.”

Marketing-free education, as Victoria calls it, is at the heart of Fox’s packaging designs.

“This idea is so important because, many times, the desired solution actually has a worse carbon footprint, environmental ramifications, or infrastructure shortcomings. Ideally, we should be designing, producing, and promoting based on scientific reality, not simply based on public perception and demand,” she asserts. “It’s crucial to work together to help consumers dispose of waste and recyclable materials successfully. It’s not necessary that plastic should be villainized. It serves us in so many different and convenient ways.”

Aside from the product itself, Fox offers automated solutions to support its partners from the packhouse to the store shelf. The company’s automated packaging equipment offers a competitive edge with the ability to control production output, reduce overall waste, and accommodate various packaging formats without significant tooling, as Aaron explains.

“For over 50 years, we have walked through our doors with the intention of improving packaging standards, being a better packaging solution, and a more valuable advocate for the supply chain. The benefits our products provide have been amazing to watch unfold—not just in the lives of our customers and retailers, but in the homes of those from our communities,” Aaron summarizes.

That is a fresh produce vision if I’ve ever heard of one.

While our story may have begun with a focus on COVID-19, that is certainly no longer where we find ourselves as we reach the end of this page.

Storms will come and go, only that is certain. A life without them is not.

Strategically positioned in the eye of the hurricane, the Fox Packaging and Fox Solutions teams are not simply basking in the sun, but guiding their partners toward clearer skies. 

The Eye of the Storm