Packaging plays a “huge role” when a producer makes the decision to begin selling it retail, says Andrew Abendshein, president of Houston-based Acre in a Box, a grower of hydroponic lettuce.

Acre in a Box packs its lettuce in a double clamshell, which Abendshein says provides customers more lettuce at a cheaper price point than traditional single clamshells. Acre in a Box currently ships to Central Market in Houston.  

“When you see our produce next to the competitors, you can instantly see the difference,” he says. “Our produce being harvested and delivered from a close location showcases that quality of our lettuce. We let our lettuce do a lot of the talking.”

Acre in a Box’s production facility itself is a kind of “package.” The company is a client of Boston-based Freight Farms, which retrofits shipping containers for hydroponic produce production. That’s how retailers in Houston are able to get locally-grown lettuce.

With the larger pack, Acre in a Box has the text space to educate consumers about their unique production story.

“We hope customers are curious to learn more and see our website,” Abendshein says. “From there, they can learn about the advantages of our container farming food safety, environmental impact, and the overall quality you get from growing indoors. Customers can also feel safe knowing their lettuce has been traced every step of the way.”

Another Freight Farms customer, Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Enlightened Crops, sells its hydroponic lettuce to Meijer stores, says Enlightened’s Steve Huntley.

As with Acre in a Box, packaging has been crucial to Enlightened getting the message out about its locally grown lettuce and the unique environment in which it was grown.

“Packaging has been very important as we try to attract consumers to buy our products in the store,” Huntley says. “We reviewed many styles before developing the final design. Our packaging emphasizes the grown-locally product attribute since that's what our customers are looking for.”

For one, Enlightened’s packaging has more color than most of its competitors to help it stand out, Huntley says.

“We did most of the research ourselves on packaging design. We’re currently searching for information on more sustainable types of packaging from various packaging suppliers.”