When planning a load for refrigerated transportation, the type of shipping container used is a key factor in order to maintain quality of the produce being shipped and present the product in a visually appealing way to consumers, so that sales returns can be maximized. Common considerations include ensuring that the container type must is compatible with the product being shipped and confirming its ability to withstand the duration of the trip.

Common shipper container materials that are used in the produce industry are:

–          Wood: nailed, stitched, wire bound crates. Commonly used for corn, apples, pears, and oranges.

–          Corrugated fiberboard: two-piece telescoping, one-piece regular slotted cartons. Commonly used for tomatoes, and cucumbers.

–          Plastic: stacking, collapsible. Commonly used for cherry tomatoes (clamshell), lettuce.

Things shippers consider when choosing the appropriate packaging:

–          Disposal: many shippers are choosing recyclable or biodegradable materials as they are better for the environment and save money by eliminating the restrictions and charges for disposing or packing material at delivery.

–          Humidity and moisture: packing is key to moisture control. Some types of produce (onions and potatoes, for example) need moisture to easily flow away. Other products such as asparagus need the packaging to help keep moisture in. Finally, products shipped with ice in the container or with top ice must be able to handle the weight of the ice.

–          Strength: torn, collapsed, dented or any other damage to containers often indicates to receivers that there is damage for the product inside, and this can affect sales.

–          Weights: freight charges continue to be an important cost factor in the end marketing of produce. Naturally, dealers want the maximize the weight of saleable product on the truck while minimizing the weight of the packaging material (similar to the use of slip sheets vs. pallets). Heavy containers such as RPCs (Recycled Plastic Containers) work for lightweight products such as lettuce, as these fill the trailers long before maximum weight is reached. Other commodities with higher weights are often packed in bags or corrugated cardboard such as apples, as this allows for more payloads.

After the appropriate packaging is selected, other common considerations are ventilation (so that heat can escape and cold air enter the product), and convenient handling (so that the product being shipped fits into the shape of the container to maximize space and can be handled appropriately by the receiver).

Each packaging option has its advantages and drawbacks, the key comes from weighing these with the type of product being shipped, and the subsequent considerations that must be taken into account. Many new technologies and packaging innovations have entered the marketplace in recent years and are making these choices easier for stakeholders; from environmental, costs, and consumer presentation perspectives. Check out PMA’s Impact Award, which recognizes excellence in packaging for a peek at some trendsetters!

Load Planning – Common Shipping Containers was last modified: by