Peaches are delicious to eat—and can be difficult to market. To appeal to grocery store customers, peaches must be ripe, undamaged and just the right shade of peach. Part of the challenge in delivering ripe, unbruised peaches to market is using the best types of packaging. The Peach Package of the Future Creative Inquiry project, led by Dr. Andrew Hurley from the Department of Food, Nutrition and Packaging Sciences, worked on developing an innovative package to better market peaches to future generations of shoppers.

South Carolina hosts the largest peach-grower on the East coast, Titan Farms, with more than 6,200 acres of not just one, but 60 varieties of peaches. The team at Titan Farms works to maintain their brand’s integrity by ensuring that each peach meets the highest standards for the fresh produce marketplace and exceeds customer satisfaction. Chalmers III and Lori Anne Carr, owners of Titan Farms, have supported Creative Inquiry projects fro many years through the Carr Family Endowment (see pgs. 34–35 for more information). This year, the endowment supported a project to develop an innovative peach package.

Students began their research by conducting reconnaissance on the produce market, packaging trends, the history of peach packaging and peach sales predictions across the United States. They also conducted a retail audit in which students visited several stores to collect peach packages for analysis. During this research, they discovered that sales and consumption of peaches has decreased for more than a decade. “Peaches are going to waste and if packaging can do anything to save them, then why not,” Caroline Joseph, a senior packaging science major, said. Their preliminary research also included a consumer survey which asked consumers questions regarding shape, size, storage methods and the peach packages they buy.

We toured the packaging science facility and everything we learned and saw that day is something we take into consideration when we think about box or package, about how it’s going to travel all of the road miles to get that peach safely to the store, so that it can go home with the consumer. It was so interesting to see that the Creative Inquiry team was so spot on for what we talk about and deal with. – Lori Anne Carr (‘90, M ‘92)

Based on the results of the survey, the Creative Inquiry team designed shopping scenarios in the CUshop™, a retail laboratory space designed to resemble a miniature grocery store. There, mock customers made selections based on the appearance and packaging of peaches. The data from the shopping scenarios was analyzed and used to inform design of new peach package prototypes. The new packaging was made from sustainable materials and featured eyegrabbing educational graphics that told consumers how to best store the peaches to achieve various stages of ripeness.

In the spring, the team presented their work to the Carrs and at the 17th Annual Focus on Creative Inquiry poster forum. The students hope to see their peach packaging in stores in the future.

The team tests their peach package prototypes in the

Consumers prefer prototypes with information about
peaches on the packaging.

The team’s baguette peach package prototype

– Allie Cheves