Shipping tomatoes in corrugated cheaper, study suggests

10/23/2013 10:58:00 AM
Andy Nelson

Shipping tomatoes in corrugated boxes can be significantly cheaper than shipping them in reusable plastic containers, according to a new study.

Corrugated can be 25% cheaper than RPCs, concludes a study by the Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based Corrugated Packaging Alliance, according to an alliance news release.

The study used data provided by a large tomato grower in Mexico. A software-modeling tool analyzed costs for using corrugated vs. RPCs to ship 144 million pounds of roma tomatoes to Houston.

Using corrugated saved $6.8 million annually, according to the analysis.

Backhaul requirements, washing and handling costs and other costs associated with RPCs account for the cost difference.

“Grocery retailers are looking to improve profits by reducing costs throughout the entire distribution channel,” Dennis Colley, the alliance’s executive director, said in the release. “Transportation packaging is one area that retailers scrutinize for possible cost savings.”

Growers and retailers save money when corrugated containers are used to ship tomatoes, according to the study.

An analysis of the same data using a special rental analysis module shows that, in a typical leasing arrangement, the retailer pays $3.5 million (17%) more to receive roma tomatoes shipped in RPCs vs. corrugated.

The grower pays $893,000 (12%) more to ship in RPCs.

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florida  |  October, 24, 2013 at 06:42 AM

It is cheaper AND safer. RPC's have been shown to harbor all sorts of bacteria that could contaminate the next batch of produce put in them. Corrugated boxes are single-use items that do not increase the risk of spreading contamination like RPCs do. RPC's take considerably more labor in a packing house, because they have to be unfolded and assembled by hand. Corrugated boxes can be made up extremely fast by machinery, relying less on expensive and hard-to-find labor.

Florida  |  January, 23, 2014 at 08:36 AM

I think it is interesting that the RPC's are positioned as a "Greener" product because they are recycleable. However, RPC's are made from plastic which is derived from oil. Oil is a non-renewable resource. Corrugated boxes are made from wood which is a renewable resource. Trees are planted,then harvested and replanted. Boxes are also recycled. Renewable. Like this article from the corrugated industry I know the RPC suppliers have their own studies touting the benefits of RPC's. However, the oil vs. tree sustainability contest is a no-brainer. Interesting how so many people and companies so concerned about being "green" or at least appearing to be enviromentally responsible fail to totally consider all factors. I have nothing at all against oil or RPC's but this carefully crafted scenario of RPC's being more "renewable" seems to be a strech at best and a waste of resources.

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