Produce Marketing Association Strategizes to Advance PLU Sticker Innovations; Ed Treacy and Max Teplitski Discuss

Fri. November 12th, 2021 - by Anne Allen

NEWARK, DE - Sustainability continues to remain a key topic for the industry as a whole, and vital decisions are being made that spark the need for further industry innovation. As many countries across Europe have made the decision to pass regulations that ban non-home compostable PLU stickers, the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) is working to advance innovation and industry involvement with regulators on PLU stickers through several efforts.

Ed Treacy, Vice President, Supply Chain and Sustainability, Produce Marketing Association“The PLU sticker is an essential solution to a complex challenge facing retailers, allowing their consumers to clearly understand pricing while also having the flexibility to buy only the amount they want,” explained PMA Vice President of Supply Chain and Sustainability, Ed Treacy. “The alternative to PLU stickers is to package all produce, leading to an increase in plastics and packaging material and limiting choices for consumers or a reduction in premium varieties offered for sale, including organics.”

According to a press release, the association has been aligning with USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) to support them in outreach to regulators in countries like Spain and France, in addition to submitting public comments to France and the Spanish government regarding the proposed rule on reducing plastic waste, which in turn eliminates the use of PLU stickers.

Dr. Max Teplitski, Chief Science Officer, Produce Marketing Association“It is important for us to reduce the need for single use packaging, and we appreciate the steps many regulators are taking to put sustainability front and center in their solutions,” PMA Chief Science Officer Dr. Max Teplitski added. “However, the use of PLU stickers relates to optimizing operational efficiency and consumer choice which helps us fight food waste. In order to ensure we’re not simply trading one problem for another, we believe any solution requires investment in innovations informed by those in the industry. We profoundly appreciate USDA FAS making exactly that kind of investment.”

In addition, the USDA FAS made research funding available under the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program to assist in the development of a home compostable PLU sticker. The association made its label service provider members aware of the funding available, and member Sinclair International, with USDA Agriculture Research Service (ARS), were successful in obtaining a grant from USDA FAS to develop a home compostable PLU sticker.

As many countries across Europe have made the decision to pass regulations that ban non-home compostable PLU stickers, the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) is working to advance innovation and industry involvement with regulators on PLU stickers through several efforts (Photo credit: Middlebury Food Co-op)

“PMA is grateful for the invitation to participate on behalf of the industry,” said Teplitski. “We will continue to educate consumers, thought leaders, and influencers on the importance of PLU stickers in fighting food loss, reducing single use packaging waste, and promoting the consumption of fresh produce.”

The USDA ARS also tasked PMA with assisting in efforts to educate on the importance of produce packaging and PLU stickers as it relates to export requirements. On November 17–18, Treacy will provide industry context in a breakout on the single use plastics ban in France and beyond during the Annual Workshop for the United States Agricultural Export Development Council (US AEDC).

PMA initiated a volunteer committee in 1988 to develop solutions to ensure the accuracy in the price consumers are charged for fresh fruits and vegetables sold in bulk, or loose, at retail, resulting in the IFPS PLU codes that we see today. While the stickers are food grade, the majority in use today do not meet the standards for being considered “home compostable,” which is being used in many areas, especially European regions, to meet new environmental regulations.

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Produce Marketing Association