Prison-inspired paper cutlery could transform fresh-cut offer in the UK

Plastico Demo set-up w box,hand-warm

The EcoTensil can be used for eating all types of food from pineapple chunks to boiled peas

Plastico PopOut SpoonLidz-Rush
EcoTensil can also be incorporated into a product's packaging

UK disposable cutlery manufacturer Plastico is introducing a new paper-based concept for fresh-cut produce that is created from a sheet of flat paper

The need to supply prisons with disposable cutlery that could, by no stretch of the imagination, be turned into a weapon may seem an unlikely way to go about finding a new concept for the fresh produce sector. But this is exactly what happened when UK firm Plastico went looking for ways to help a customer that required a new solution for its clients – in this case prisons.

A long-term manufacturer of disposable cutlery for supermarkets and the fresh produce sector, Plastico was asked by its customer to fulfil a difficult supply order and, in the process, encountered a revolutionary concept called EcoTensil.

“I came across EcoTensil last year when I was asked by a customer that works with prisons who needed a safe utensil,” explains Plastico’s Martin Beney.

“We couldn’t find anything that was 100% safe – that couldn’t be weaponised – until I came across this product, which is totally unique, compostable and hugely cube-efficient because it just comprises of a flat sheet of paper.”

Launched in the US in 2010 by packaging industry professional Peggy Cross, EcoTensil was first created as a makeshift spoon for yoghurt from a piece of cardboard during a lengthy road trip.

The EcoTensil range is now used by grocery retailers across the US, where it has found particular success as a disposable utensil for in-store tastings. However, perhaps the most surprising fact about EcoTensil is the fact that it is entirely made of paper and can be used for eating everything from pineapple chunks to boiled peas.

“EcoTensil can be incorporated into the packaging itself – it is cost effective and really quite ingenious,” says Beney.

As EcoTensil’s European distribution partner, Beney says Plastico is keen to raise awareness of the product among the UK’s fresh produce sector, explaining that the product could fit well with fresh-cut fruit packaging or be used for sampling in retail outlets.

“This is especially relevant to tastings, so if companies want to show off their products, these little gadgets are ideal,” he says.

Further ahead, Beney says a paper fork capable of piercing apple chunks is already in development, adding that the EcoTensil has already received strong interest from UK supermarket chains.

“We are increasing our sales resource for EcoTensil – we have identified the sector as a strategic growth market and we are keen to further develop strategic alliances with key retailers, producers and processors,” he adds.

Customised service

Plastico is a family owned specialist UK manufacturer of injection moulded and thermoformed products, focusing on the development and manufacturing of a range of mini utensils which are widely used in the grocery, food processing and food manufacturing sectors.

The company also has a range of disposable cutlery, mini utensils and flexi glasses for the drinks market and offers a customised service for all of its products, which includes a custom-to-completion service for any new product innovation that its customers may have.

BRC (British Retail Consortium) and Tesco-approved manufacturer, Beney says the company’s Surrey location means it can offer shorter lead times for supplying UK retailers, adding that it is also a proven, reliable partner for growers.

At the London Produce Show and Conference 2015, where Plastico will be present as an exhibitor, Beney says the company will be showcasing its full range of products, which, in addition to EcoTensil, includes mini utensils, which are currently found on Tesco’s fruit pots.

The company will also be highlighting other recent innovations, such as its Naturelle range of biodegradable plastic cutlery, and will be demonstrating its new folding fork. “It’s tiny, but folds out into a full-sized fork,” says Beney.

Moreover, Beney says its presence at the event will give Plastico the opportunity to understand the fresh produce sector and grocery retail market in more detail and allow it to showcase how its capabilities are closely aligned to the needs of both growers and retailers.

Plastico was an exhibitor at the London Produce Show and Conference 2015, which took place at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel on June 3-5.

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