Pepper Source reduces its packaging and distribution costs with a reusable bulk container that saves in both shipping and receiving, says maker of sauces, marinades and glazes.
Since its 1991 inception Metairie LA gourmet sauce maker Pepper Source Ltd. has seen its sales quadruple. To make sure its costs didn't follow suit the company scrutinized its packaging and distribution operations as a way to limit expenses. The principal money saver in packaging operations is a reusable Bulkdrum III intermediate bulk container from Hoover Materials Handling Group (Alpharetta GA) that holds 275 gal of product. Bulkdrum IIIs replace a variety of other shipping containers including a different IBC 55-gal polyvinyl chloride drums and to a lesser extent corrugated containers with flexible inner plastic liners. These other options are still used in some cases particularly when a customer requires limited quantities of product. "Compared to the cost of nonreusable corrugated containers reusing Bulkdrum IIIs greatly reduces our container costs" notes Pepper Source vp Joe Morse. The company would not divulge specific savings. Morse says savings stem primarily from faster filling and reduced handling that result in lower labor costs. "Instead of filling a 55-gallon drum taking the nozzle off moving the drum attaching the nozzle to the next drum and repeating this five times you can just fill one Bulkdrum III" he says. "That results in considerable time and labor savings." Bulkdrum III includes a blow-molded high-density polyethylene "bottle" inner liner that holds the product. The liner comes with a filling port on top and a bottom discharge port. This container is protected by an outer metal cage of galvanized steel that complies with USDA regulations. By looking through the sides of the cage an operator can gauge the level of the product inside. For the most part the Bulkdrum III replaces an IBC from another vendor. "We ran into some problems with the design of the earlier container" says Paul Liggio vp of operations. "That IBC had a metal cage too but there was a coating on it that eventually started to flake off. That was unsatisfactory because bacteria could get trapped in those areas where the coating flaked off." Ongoing improvements Pepper Source began using the Hoover drums in '92. Since then the food company has worked with the supplier to make ongoing improvements to the IBC. "Hoover has implemented some of our suggestions and made it a better tote" says Liggio. "We offered several suggestions to our [former IBC] supplier but they were slow [to respond]" he says. The most recent improvements to the Bulkdrum III made within the past year are an attached steel pallet and removable fill valves. The attached steel pallet eliminates the need to use a wooden pallet which Liggio says the USDA finds unsatisfactory because the wood can harbor bacteria. Those IBCs had to be strapped or banded to the pallet for shipment. The labor and materials to complete that task are eliminated with the attached steel pallet. The fill valves add convenience Liggio explains "At one time if you had a leaking valve you had to replace the entire liner. Now you can replace the valve without disposing of a perfectly good container. That saves time for us" he says not to mention the costs of replacing the container. Numerous benefits Bulkdrum III provides several additional benefits for Pepper Source and its customers who use Pepper Source sauces for further food processing applications. Since the inner container slopes toward a bottom discharge valve it's easy for Pepper Source customers to discharge product. Easier more complete draining also reduces product waste. "The Bulkdrum totes provide customers with a big advantage in that they don't have to concern themselves with discarding or landfilling them as they had to with corrugated containers with inner liners or bulk drums" adds Liggio. By not having to landfill the IBCs Liggio says customers enjoy economic and environmental advantages. "There's also less labor for product handling" he points out. "After a customer receives a tote the tote is easily fork-lifted to the processing or filling line where a pump is applied to the discharge valve. Again one 275-gallon tote takes about one-fifth the labor necessary to do the job with five 55-gallon drums. In many instances when a shipment is delivered to a customer the carrier will pick up empty totes for a return trip to Pepper Source. "We use common carriers to pick up the totes from our customers. We then clean and sanitize them for reuse" says Liggio. Again the easy emptying that reduces product waste also speeds the cleaning process he says. The IBCs he notes average 10 to 15 trips. "We've used some of them for two years already and they're still in good condition. It depends on how your customer treats them" says Morse. "The IBCs have proven to be quite durable and they're easy for our customers to handle" he adds. Compared to 55-gal PVC drums the IBCs provide warehouse space savings. One 275-gal Bulkdrum III takes up 13.3 square feet of space. The same space would hold only four 55-gal drums yielding only 220 gal of product. Understandably the multiple advantages have prompted Pepper Source to try to convert customers to Bulkdrum III. Liggio estimates that 85% to 90% of its customers who order in bulk now use the container. "We'll provide whatever the customer wants" says Liggio. "If it's a corrugated container we'll order it. But the economic advantages of reusing this IBC means we can distribute our costs for the container over 10 to 15 trips as opposed to a single-use container. For customers this container is the most economical of all we offer." The success of the 275-gal IBC with customers led to Pepper Source's shipping cleaned empties to its ingredient suppliers as well. "We gain most of the same advantages with the tote that our customers do" Liggio says. "They're easy to drain require little labor and use space effectively." "This is the perfect package for our operation" Morse concludes. "The Bulkdrum III allows us to provide a quality product to our customers in an economical trustworthy package."