Brambles’ acquisition of IFCO Systems in the 2011 financial year put the company in a strong position to meet growing demand from retailers in the USA to replace disposable one-way packaging with reusable plastic crates (RPCs).
IFCO’s Doug Hoover at Cal Giant’s strawberry fields in Watsonville, California, USA.
Another appealing aspect of IFCO was its record of product development and innovation, which has enabled its customers to expand their use of RPCs into new channels of the fresh produce supply chain.
For the past six years, IFCO has worked with leading US grocery retailer Kroger to convert shipments from its suppliers of fresh fruit and vegetables to all 16 of its distribution centres from disposable packaging to RPCs.
Kroger has benefited from quality improvements in those products it transports in RPCs instead of conventional corrugated cardboard packaging. It has also generated supply-chain efficiencies and reduced its environmental footprint through reduced waste.
Initially, certain perishable grocery items, such as strawberries, bananas and eggs, were not suited for transportation in IFCO’s RPCs, so Kroger was unable to realise the same quality, efficiency and sustainability benefits for those products.
Beginning in 2011, Kroger and IFCO began to roll out specially designed crates for the transportation and display of these unique items, starting with IFCO’s 6408N RPC for strawberries and 6330E RPC for eggs.
Kroger and IFCO are transferring shipment of all strawberries from growing fields such as those in Watsonville, California, to Kroger distribution centres using the new, dedicated RPC, which enables maximum efficiency, airflow, cooling and supply-chain handling.
Since the switch, Kroger has experienced greater load efficiency, meaning it can deliver more units to its stores per load; increased product quality, meaning fewer rejections of fruit; and reduced labour costs through reduced handling at warehouses and in stores.
Since Kroger has introduced IFCO’s dedicated egg crate to select stores in Indiana, Ohio and Alaska, Kroger has observed reduced egg breakage, improved cooling and temperature-control results, and better store merchandising and display outcomes.
IFCO designed its egg crate specially to facilitate easy in-store handling. The crate’s front sidewall opens outward and folds under its base, for an attractive and easy display solution that eliminates the extra handling that can lead to breakage.
In future, IFCO will be offering Kroger new RPC innovations for bananas, bulk produce items and other dairy and grocery applications utilising advanced crate technology.
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