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Grocery industry stalks source of packaging damage

The grocery industry lost some $1.4 billion last year from unsaleable products, many of which were crushed and dented packages and cans. A new survey conducted by Willard Bishop Consulting, Ltd.

for the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) and the National Food Brokers Association (NFBA) found that variations among package type are fairly narrow. The firm surveyed 12 manufacturers-representing 390 brands-to find out expenses incurred by those manufacturers as a percentage of gross sales to the grocery industry.

Broken down by package type, unsaleable pouches (used for flour and dry mixes) cost manufacturers the most. Manufacturers incurred expenses relating to returns equaling 1.8% of their gross sales for this package type. Other package types, including boxes, plastic bag/foil wrap, cans, plastic bottles/jars and glass bottles, fell into the 0.7 to 1.1% range.

More research is needed to determine what is causing problems in specific locations. Manu- facturers should visit warehouses, go aboard trucks and look for crushed boxes and cans to learn what is happening, said Willard Bishop vp Dan Raferty, who ran the project. Durability tests conducted by manufacturers don't always provide a picture of the real world, he added.

He describes how one manufacturer found that gaps between cases on certain pallet patterns were causing problems after pallets were stretch wrapped. It seems the force of the wrap pulled cases toward the center, causing the corners of cases above and below the faulty layer to stick out, becoming more vulnerable to damage. He related another situation in which package designers altered a box design and the corrugated supplier separately changed board specifications, each without consulting one another, resulting in an inadvertently weaker case.

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