The Prince of Wales has learned about innovations in recyclable alternatives to plastic packaging during a visit a Boston food factory this morning (Monday).
As part of a tour of five locations around the eastern side of Lincolnshire, the Prince paid a visit to the Freshtime UK factory on Marsh Lane in Boston to celebrate the expansion of the business which employs 550 people locally.
The company produces convenient fresh produce and salads for high street retailers, with much of its ingredients sourced locally.
Having been greeted by chairman of the business, John Richmond and Mayor of Boston, Coun Bernard Rush, His Royal Highness was keen to be shown around the departments responsible for the firm's green credentials having invested £1.5m in renovating the site, operating a zero waste to landfill policy and staff talked him through their efforts towards creating fully recyclable packaging as well as using recycled materials.
It has saved 200 tons of plastic going to landfill over the past two years by changing the packaging it uses and making the plastic thinner, working with its main customers.
The Prince said: "The problem is how you get the balance between convenience and finding a way of reducing plastic. The difficulty is finding an adequate alternative. Have you tried making them from waste products like tomato stalks, I have heard."
Head of Procurement John Stokes showed packaging soon to go into a major chain of coffee shops and said: "There are three things to deal with - shelf life, people need to be able to see it and it has to transit fairly well."
The Prince also met excited office staff before visiting the new product development kitchens where a range of pasta, grains, fruit and vegetable ingredients were on display. He was particularly fascinated by the rustic coloured carrots and romanesco broccoli and learning which vegetables were grown in the UK. Naturally he was keen to know what products were organic.
Moving on to the factory canteen, Prince Charles met apprentices training in all sections of the business as well as a selection of long-serving staff who have been with the firm for over 20 years. To conclude he unveiled a plaque which will mark his visit to the redeveloped site.
On his departure he was presented with a picture of the town by a local 75-year-old artist and a book documenting the history of the local agricultural industry before shaking hands and bidding farewell to factory workers and whizzing off by car to his next engagement at Age UK in Boston.
Freshtime chairman John Richmond said it had been a 'wonderful honour' to meet the Prince: "For the people that work within the business and the community at large.
"The Prince himself is very interested in agriculture and how produce gets to the consumer and he was particularly interested today how packaging was being used and what is being done to reduce the amount of plastic in packaging.
"Everybody concerned is absolutely delighted that the Prince was able to spend time with us today, particularly having invested in the renovation of the factory."
Technical Manager Michaela Thorpe met the Prince as part of the team that makes sure all food that leaves site if safe and of good quality and even managed to grab a Royal 'selfie' with him before his departure. She said: "We talked about the constraints on recycling and what effects that has on the food industry.
"It has been a real honour to meet the Prince of Wales. You see him on TV a lot and you don't think you are actually going to meet him. He was such a down to earth person and engaged with a lot of staff here as well, which is really nice. If he is speaking to you, you feel you are the most important person in the room."
Will Chalmers was one of the operations and manufacturing apprentices the Prince met. He said it is a university foundation degree which he hopes will see him rise through the ranks of management. He said: "I think he was quite surprised at the amount of people Freshtime has on apprenticeships as it is a business looking to invest and develop its people for the future.
"He was very pleasant and very interested in what we do locally and what we do in the business. When I knew I was meeting him I was very nervous. It is such a milestone for a company like Freshtime and I think everybody has come together and embraced it."