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Jalapenos 'wheel' to market in new jar

New barrier plastic jug offers convenience, safety and disposal improvements.

A versatile new square jug molded with a grip feature has Pacific Choice Brands excited. Not only will the company triple its use of the container in '98 but the number of products packed in it will widen this year.

That's really good news for Pacific Choice Brands and for Continental Plastic Containers (Norwalk CT) the container molder. However Pacific Choice a Fresno CA food packer is staring down the barrel of El Ni"o and its limitations on California harvests. Although it wants to increase sales of products in the container it knows it will be hampered by reduced supplies of jalape"o peppers the only product that has thus far established a history with the container.

"Our first customers had a very good reaction to this new container" says Bonifacio Villalobos technical director for Pacific Choice. "Customer response to the container was strong last year. That's why we're expecting our usage to triple this year."

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Pacific Choice is a versatile food packer with a majority of sales serving as a copacker or contract packager of some 400 different products. It does market some product under its own labels including Monterey Gold. Originally Continental brought the container to Pacific's attention when it was still in concept stage. The blow molder's Lamicon® technology produces a six-layer bottle primarily of polypropylene but with ethylene vinyl alcohol copolymer for its oxygen barrier properties. This container was designed primarily as a convenient replacement for #10 steel food cans the staple of the foodservice market. Foodservice however was not the primary market for Pacific Choice nor for most of its customers.

In packing jalape"o peppers most of Pacific Choice's copacking volume was in smaller retail-size jars. However when these retail marketers saw the barrier plastic jar they saw it as a way to move into foodservice distribution says Villalobos. In the past some of these same customers were buying peppers in #10 cans packed by Pacific Choice or by companies in Mexico. "These were the companies that saw the value added by this container" says Villalobos. "They saw this container as helping them develop a new more upscale market."

Small runs last year

When Pacific Choice packed jalape"o peppers in the new jar to show to one of its copacking customers "they were really interested so we made some sales samples for them and later we did some small production runs" says Villalobos.

Some of this was done on virtually a manual basis but Pacific Choice saw the potential and purchased the equipment needed to be able to pack the product in a fairly automated fashion. While it was able to use an existing filler Pacific Choice did add a capper labeler and an inducti