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Box 'Aces' apple maker's test

This year, the Ace Apple Co. ordered 30ꯠ interlocking, “shelf-ready” corrugated cases to pack its apples, tripling last year’s order. The apple grower reports the increased use of the box, as an alternative to a more traditional corrugated case, stems from the enthusiasm of retailers, primarily supermarkets.
FILED IN:  Package design  > Structural

Each box contains 27 lb of either Gala Granny Smith Fuji or Pink Lady apples. Supplied by International Paper (Memphis TN) the 40 cmx60 cm (15 ¾”x23 2/3”) case is flexo-printed in two colors. It’s part of IP’s Defor™ Packaging Sys-tem which includes a custom case erector that assembles cases at rates to 26/min. The erector is made to IP specifications by two outside firms.

“The box results in less shrink and less handling and [in some cases] is cutting retailers’ labor costs in half” says Chris Lagorio marketing director for Ace a part of Manteca CA-based Lagorio Enterprises a produce and walnut grower. Lagorio also acknowledges that the new box is costlier than a standard corrugated case though the difference is hard to determine since the traditional case prices vary by order quantity.

Lagorio says interest in the Defor box has spread to U.S. grocery chains from Europe. Last year Lagorio notes “was the first year we used the case with all four of our apple varieties.” Fruit picked in the fields is hand-packed from bins into the erected cases which are then stacked on a pallet. The interlocking tabs on the cases allow easy stacking and create pallet stability. For added integrity Ace uses corrugated corner posts and fiber “strips” that interlock with cases positioned at the edge of the pallet. The company stacks pallets two-high.

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Lagorio points out that stores benefit the most from the Defor agricultural packaging system because the printed case serves as a shelf-ready display case. It is easy to grip maneuver and set on the shelf. Ace also uses a separate corrugated cover with slots that fit onto the cases’ locking tabs. The cover is removed when displayed at the store. “A lot of stores don’t do an efficient job of moving fruit around” Lagorio says. “I’ve seen untrained employees bruise the apples unnecessarily.” But with the Defor box they don’t have to dump product out from a case or manually rotate the fruit. “It goes off the pallet and right onto the store shelf.”

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