Demand for sustainable packaging solutions continues to increase globally. In response, the Netherlands-headquartered JASA Packaging Solutions opened a US branch in 2018, followed by a branch in Canada in 2022. "We have been active on the North American market since 1990, but in 2018, we made the shift to focus on offering complete packaging lines for the North American market as that has been our strength in Europe," says JASA's Joost Somford, who is based in North America.
While the company's intent was to focus on paper packaging for the North American market, it has been receiving many requests for leafy greens in trays and bag packaging. Due to the significant interest from the leafy greens business, JASA has set up a dedicated leafy greens team. "We focus on assisting our customers to help solve their problems rather than offering a standard packaging line. We brainstorm with the customer and pay attention to each specific and unique situation," said Somford. "It is our goal to provide optimal customer service and offer a complete packaging solution."
"The requests are different every time. From a certain weight amount of packing per day to a certain ratio of trays and bags or a very specific request for two tray filling lines for which the customer has already worked everything out. Sometimes, the customer provides detailed specifications of their needs, and other times, they don't know exactly what they are looking for."
Strong collaboration between the teams in North America and Europe is key in developing a product that meets the customer's needs. Requests come in through Somford, who shares the details with Norbert Karsten, Lead Sales Engineer in Alkmaar, the Netherlands. Karsten has been assigned to work on projects in North America. The team in the Netherlands is responsible for working out the details of the plan.
"The first challenge is to exactly understand what the customer is looking for," said Karsten. "Once understood, I can unleash my creativity in developing a technical solution that works well." Karsten has the freedom to be creative and is often able to surprise the customer with a completely different packaging line compared to what they had envisioned at first. "I really like Norbert's outside-the-box thinking, which also goes for the rest of the team. It enables us to offer our customers some very innovative solutions," Somford said.
In addition to the team in the Netherlands, a team is on the ground in Richmond, VA taking care of installations, service jobs, etc. Altogether, over 200 machines are up and running in North America, with many having been installed at leading players in the leafy greens market.
Norbert Karsten, Lead Sales Engineer.
Leafy greens are a very delicate product compared to field-grown greens, and Somford enjoys that additional challenge. Karsten adds that leafy greens are prone to pop back up. "They don't just drop into their packaging like a potato does. It's a fragile product that should be handled carefully during the packaging process, and it's much harder to package than firm products." During the development process, JASA puts the product in the center. "We don't only look at what the customer needs, but also what the product demands. We design a packaging machine that is best suited for the product, and that's where our knowledge and expertise come in," commented Karsten.
Sleever for salads.
Differences between North American and European markets
Are the requests for the North American and European markets similar? "There is actually quite a difference between the two markets," said Somford. "At this point, it is not entirely clear yet how the North American leafy greens market will develop." The focus has been on trays for the last five years, but JASA is seeing a shift towards bags. "All of a sudden, this shift is taking place very quickly, whereas the Dutch market seems to be more stabilized," said Somford.
What lies ahead?
The team hopes to continue collaborating across continents in the coming years, as it would allow them to continue bringing exciting products to market. "Innovation does cause some stressful moments at times, but in the end, it always adds to the fun," finished Somford.