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Retail-ready asparagus

The Gourmet Trading Company, a leading grower, packer, and distributor of asparagus and blueberries, contacted the Packaging Program at Cal Poly State University for help in designing a retail-ready shipper holding 11 lb of fresh asparagus.

Pw 2249 5 K Display Standard Clsd Wtag R

Among the requirements:

• a two-piece format was needed so that in-store personnel could easily remove the top and turn the shipper into a consumer-friendly display tray
• the display tray had to hold bunches of asparagus vertically to enhance display appeal and to keep the butt ends in contact with a water-saturated pad
• the display tray had to sit on store shelves that had a two-inch lip and that inclined at a 60-degree angle
• the shipper had to be made of corrugated polypropylene and had to accommodate manual set up and packing
• the shippers had to be palletized 20 per tier in an eight-tier stack for shipment via truck, air, and ocean

All of these requirements were to be met without increasing the amount of PP used in an existing one-piece PP shipper that weighed 9.6 oz but lacked a retail-ready design. Also, adequate ventilation for hydro-cooling and fumigation of the asparagus had to be assured, and structural strength had to be as good as or better than the existing shipper.

With assistance from two seniors in our packaging program, Evan Cernokus and Sean Sliger, a Cal Poly team designed a unique shipper that met all the expectations of not only Gourmet Trading Co. but also its major customer—Walmart. While maintaining the original dimensions, the new two-piece design can be loaded at the packing facility and easily unassembled at retail to create a display-ready tray. The new design was validated against physical and ambient environment-related abuse experienced during distribution through the pre-shipment test standard ASTM D 4169.

The design of the die-cut, two-piece shipper maintains ventilation areas and requires minimal training for assembling, filling, and unitizing. The shipper weighs the same as its predecessor yet has 27% greater compression strength. Gourmet Trading Co. has successfully implemented the design in 40,000 loaded shippers imported from Peru last season and has plans to use 150,000 of the newly designed shippers for its Mexican production this year. Walmart has approved the design while commenting that they hope to realize significant labor savings and shrink reduction upon complete implementation.

Jay Singh,, is associate professor and packaging program director at Cal Poly State University.

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