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Get to Know Dr. Paul Singh
Dr. Paul Singh is a researcher who is currently working with the NMB to develop a new standardized package for shipping mangos. We had the chance to interview Dr. Singh and learn more about his expertise in the produce industry.
Q: What is your name and employer?
A: My name is Paul Singh and I am a retired professor from Michigan State University. I spent 26 years with the School of Packaging and now I have my consulting company, Packing Research Associates, where I continue to do more research studies.
Q: What is your expertise and background?
A: Perishables packaging is an area that I’ve worked in for the last 25 years. I started working on major projects with companies such as Chiquita and Driscoll in the areas of tropical fruits and other strong fruit in terms of both distribution and marketing.
Q: What trends in packaging design have made the most impact on produce in general over the last 20 years?
A: Since the 1980s, I’ve seen a big transition in the availability of fresh fruits year-round. An analogy I use in my presentation on perishable packaging is how we can literally get both fresh strawberries and cream year-round. While cream is in the processed food area, fresh strawberries are available year-round, every day. Mangos for example, was a fruit that you rarely saw 9 or 10 months out of the year, but now you can go to a retailer and find mangos all year-round.
Q: What kind of research do you conduct for the NMB and how does it benefit the industry?
A: For the past three years, the focus has been to create and develop a new standardized package. We want to create a package system or package tray that can be palletized and used to ship mangos from the various exporting regions around the world to deliver a better and more uniformed quality to retailers and to the eventual consumer.
Q: What unique packaging issues exist with the mango industry?
A: It’s always a learning experience for me and my colleagues, Dr. Jay Singh and Dr. Saha from Cal Poly State University, who are also working on this project. What we’ve done is look at the challenges presented to a grower. There are hundreds of growers from various countries who are involved in shipping mangos to the U.S and then there’s a variation in the type of materials they may or may not have access to. Our challenge is to understand how they can uniformly develop a package that has strength and still be able to accommodate precooling, so we can have better shelf life of that fruit once it’s received in the U.S. Another presented challenge is in each region you have different sizes and varieties of fruits, as well as various modes of transportation. Mangos coming out of Brazil may take as much as 3 weeks to get to the U.S, whereas mangos from the Northern Mexican region may take a few days. So, there are definitely a lot of challenges both in the physical and climatic challenges trays and mangos are exposed to.
Q: In 2017, how do you think mango packaging in the U.S will be different?
A: I think there will be more uniformity in the quality of the actual mango being better, riper and more acceptable to the U.S consumer. Again there is a learning experience within the U.S consumer in terms of the quality and what the mango fruit delivers, but I think coming up with a uniformed packaging system that enhances the post-harvest experience and reduces damages during transport will provide the consumer a much more acceptable product. So, I think while you may not see much display-ready mango trays in the retail market, you’ll actually see more, better quality mangos in 2017 and of course a larger shelf presence with consumer acceptance.
Q: What is your favorite thing about mangos?
A: I was born in India and I started eating mangos when I was a very young child. I consider mangos among my top three favorite fruits even though it is difficult to find a high-quality mango all year-round. For that reason, I’m happy to work with the National Mango Board and successfully help them bring high-quality fruit year-round, which is now widely received by the U.S consumer.
To learn more about Dr. Singh’s mango packaging project with the NMB, click here.