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Full text of "Western European preferences for sizing, packaging, and unitizing selected fresh fruits and vegetables"

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ted States 
w^partment of 
Agriculture 

Agricultural 

Research 

Service 

Marketing 
Research 
Report 
Number 1135 



Western European 
Preferences for Sizing, 
Packaging, and 
Unitizing Selected 
Fresh Fruits and 
Vegetables 






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Historic, archived document 

Do not assume content reflects current 
scientific knowledge, policies, or practices. 



Abstract 

Miller, W. R., and Bongers, A. J. 1983. Western European 
Preferences for Sizing, Packaging, and Unitizing Selected 
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. U.S. Department of Agricul- 
ture, Marketing Research Report No. 1135, 7 p. 

A total of 38 major Western European receivers participated 
in the study by providing trade and market preferences for 
packaging, handling, and product presentation features for 
20 selected fresh fruits and vegetables. Specific preferences 
are described for type of shipping container, style, construc- 
tion materials, size of container, and type of closure. 
Acceptable physical parameters for unitized handling 
features were determined. Generally, corrugated-fiberboard 
shipping containers were preferred. New weight per box pre- 
ferred for most fruits was 5 kg, except for strawberries 
which was 3 kg per box. The preferred net weight per box 
for eggplant, green beans, green peppers, and tomatoes was 
6 kg, whereas 10 to 15 kg was preferred for celery, Chinese 
cabbage, cauliflower, and iceberg lettuce. 

KEYWORDS: shipping container; standardized packaging; 
fresh fruits; fresh vegetables; Western Europe; EEC; modu- 
larization, unitization, and metrification; MUM 



Microfiche or printed copies of this publication may be 
purchased from the National Technical Information Serv- 
ice, 5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield, Va. 22161. For addi- 
tional information, contact NTIS at the address above- 



Contents 

Page 

Introduction 1 

Methodology 1 

Results 2 

Marketing functions of participating firms 2 

Preferred packaging, packing, and presentation 

features for fruits 2 

Preferred packaging, packing, and presentation 

features for vegetables 4 

Participant use of unitization for imported fresh 

fruits and vegetables 6 

Technique and parameter preferences for 

unitizing 6 

Transport modes used for distribution 7 

Conclusions and recommendations 7 



Acknowledgments 

The authors gratefully acknowledge the cooperation and 
assistance of each firm and person that participated in this 
study. There were many and, unfortunately, each cannot be 
cited individually. 

Special appreciation is expressed to the staffs of USDA's 
Foreign Agricultural Service in Paris, France; Bonn, Germ- 
any; The Hague, the Netherlands; Stockholm, Sweden; and 
London, the United Kingdom, for providing lists of firms 
importing U.S. products into various Western European 
countries. The authors also especially recognize the 
cooperation of P. P. Q. deWildt, European Marketing 
Research Center, Rotterdam, who participated in the collec- 
tion of information in France. 



Issued May 1984 



Western European Preferences for Sizing, 
Packaging, and Unitizing Selected Fresh 
Fruits and Vegetables 



By W. R. Miller and A. J. Bongers 1 



Introduction 

The U.S. fresh fruit and vegetable packaging industry is 
currently in a major transition. The benefits obtained by a 
more standardized packaging and unitizing system for han- 
dling produce are recognized by the industry and are the 
principal factors influencing these changes. This transition 
involves the adoption of a rational standardized system for 
determining shipping container and pallet base dimensions 
compatible with the international system of measurements. 

In the United States, the fruit and vegetable industries have 
adopted the term modularization, unitization, and metrifica- 
tion (MUM) to describe this concept. The United Fresh 
Fruit and Vegetable Association, Federal and State research 
and extension agencies, and growers, shippers, and 
receivers are becoming more aware of the benefits to be 
derived by total industry conversion. Individual firms are 
now developing and testing shipping containers on a com- 
modity basis to determine the physical and economical 
feasibility of adapting to the MUM concept for their packag- 
ing operations. 

The authors initiated a study in November 1980 to obtain 
Western European preferences for specific packaging 
features for fresh fruits and vegetables. Their findings were 
to provide the U.S. fresh fruit and vegetable industries with 
needed information for packaging changes and to provide 
additional input from this important export market. This 
study was completed in July 1981. For more than 11 years, 
USDA researchers stationed at the European Marketing 
Research Center in Rotterdam reported that packaging of 
some U.S. commodities was not compatible with market 
demands in Europe. For example, peppers and iceberg let- 
tuce generally are marketed in the United States in shipping 
containers larger than those preferred in Western Europe, 
and consumer units generally used to market strawberries 
and blueberries are too large. 



'Agricultural marketing specialist and agricultural 
research specialist, respectively, U.S. Depart- 
ment of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Ser- 
vice, European Marketing Research Center, 
Marconistraat 38b, 3029AK, Rotterdam, the 
Netherlands. (Miller is currently located at U.S. 
Horticultural Research Laboratory, Orlando, 
Fla.) 



The purpose of this particular study is to identify specific 
physical packaging construction and commodity presentation 
features that can be described and quantified and to deter- 
mine, by commodity, those features most preferred by the 
Western European trade. The objective of this study is to 
provide the U.S. fresh produce industry with information 
that will enhance the acceptability and salability of U.S. pro- 
duce in this export market. 

This publication describes construction and design features 
of shipping containers, such as type, style, closure method, 
and accessory materials, most preferred in the Western 
European market for 20 selected produce items. The most 
preferred net weights per shipping container unit, by com- 
modity, and an indication of the importance given to factors 
such as uniformity of commodity size and multicolor print- 
ing on shipping containers are also provided. Finally, the 
preferred techniques of unitizing produce are described, and 
the extent to which unitized handling is currently used and 
preferred by the European market is explained. 

According to the 1980 agricultural statistics published by the 
Department, exports of U.S. fresh fruits and vegetables to 
the European community for fiscal years 1975-79 were 
$56.85, $82.49, $98.72, $60.73, and $67.26 million, respec- 
tively. For many U.S. grower/shippers, these dollar values 
may seem unimportant, but for some export shippers they 
represent a major market for their produce. In total, these 
exports represent an important contribution toward the bal- 
ance of payments of the United States. 

Methodology 

Initial discussions were conducted with USDA's Foreign 
Agricultural Service (FAS) attaches and the counselors and 
major importers of U.S. produce in Western Europe to 
determine countries, importers, wholesalers, and commod- 
ities to be included in the survey. 

Based on information received from preliminary discus- 
sions, 10 fresh fruits and 10 fresh vegetables were selected 
for this study. In addition, relatively minor-volume items 
identified as having a reasonable potential for increasing in 
market share were considered. The selected commodities 
are listed below. The number following each item 
represents the number of firms contacted that received the 
item from the United States and that provided information 
relative to the survey. 



Fresh Fruits 




Fresh Vegetables 


Avocados 


23 


Carrots 4 


Blueberries 


8 


Cauliflower 2 


Cherries 


9 


Celery 12 


Grapes 


11 


Chinese cabbage 1 1 


Limes 


6 


Eggplant 9 


Mangos 


19 


Green beans 3 


Nectarines 


11 


Green peppers 7 


Peaches 


10 


Iceberg lettuce 16 


Plums 


12 


Onions 4 


Strawberries 


15 


Tomatoes 4 



The Western European countries selected to comprise the 
survey market area are France, West Germany, the Nether- 
lands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. These countries 
are each a major market for U.S. fresh produce. The com- 
modity mix imported by each country will vary on a com- 
modity volume basis. A list of major import organizations in 
each country was supplied by the respective FAS office. The 
criteria used for selecting import firms as participants in the 
survey were (1) willingness to cooperate in the study, (2) 
current involvement in importing produce from the United 
States and from other major foreign supply sources, and (3) 
recommendations from preliminary discussions. The 
number of firms participating are listed below by country. 

France 8 

West Germany 9 

The Netherlands 8 

Sweden 6 

The United Kingdom 7 



All information was obtained in personal interviews with 
the designated spokespersons of the participating firms. 
Interviews were completed in each country in the following 
sequence: The Netherlands, West Germany, France, 
Sweden, and the United Kingdom. 

Results 

Marketing Functions of Participating Firms 

The principal marketing functions of the 38 firms participa- 
ting in this study are listed below: 

Importers 33 

Wholesalers 22 

Retailers 7 

Packaging research organizations 1 



Of the importers, 19 were aiso major wholesalers and 5 
were engaged in large retail operations. The size of each 
firm engaged in direct retail operations, in number of 
individual stores, ranged from 400 to about 20,000. One 
principal wholesaler also was engaged in direct retailing, and 
one retailing firm purchased produce through other import- 
ers or secondary wholesalers only. Sixteen firms marketed 
imported produce only domestically, while 21 firms were 
involved in domestic sales as well as reexport to other 
Western European countries. 



Preferred Packaging, Packing, and Presentation Features 
for Fruits 



Questions relating to specific physical packaging features, 
commodity presentation factors, and the extent and prefer- 
ence of unitization methods were assembled in question- 
and-answer format. An informal questionnaire was used to 
facilitate uniform discussions with participants and to ensure 
that each participant received identical information. This 
also provided a method to accurately record responses. This 
study was designed to obtain the following information from 
participants: 

1. Participant's marketing function and sales organiza- 
tion. 

2. U.S. commodities imported. 

3. Transport mode used for inbound cargo. 

4. Transport mode used for outbound cargo. 

5. Extent of and preference for unitized handling. 

6. Description of preferred methods and features for 
unitization. 

7. Description of preferred construction factors and 
features for packaging of each commodity. 

8. Description of preferred commodity presentation 
features, by commodity. 



The frequency of responses of preference for specific pack- 
aging features for selected fresh fruits is shown in table 1. 
For some preferred factors, the number of responses 
exceeds the number of participants. This indicates that two 
or more features were equally preferred by some firms. For 
others, some participants chose not to respond to a particu- 
lar question and the number of responses was less than the 
number of participants. Commodities in table 1 are listed in 
alphabetical order. In the discussions that follow, however, 
commodities are grouped in categories based on reported 
similarities of resulting preferences. In addition to factors 
listed in tables 1 and 2, other general comments that were 
determined important for shippers to the Western European 
market are discussed. 

Group I. Avocados and Mangos. The preferred packaging 
for this commodity group was a full-telescope, corrugated- 
fiberboard box. Interior preformed trays were preferred for 
avocados. Uniformity of size within lots by count was 
important, and contrasting color printing of boxes was rela- 
tively more important for these fruits than for other fruits. 
For mangos, larger sizes of 12, 14, and 16 fruits per box 



were preferred more than 18, 20, and 24 counts. Ten 
receivers preferred a 5-kg net weight pack for mangos and 
10 receivers preferred 6 kg. For avocados, 11 receivers pre- 
ferred 5 kg and 9, 6 kg net weight. A few participants pre- 
ferred less than 5 kg or more than 6 kg net weight for both 
avocados and mangos. The most preferred counts for avoca- 
dos were smaller sizes of 18, 20, 24, and 30 for single-layer 
boxes. Two receivers stated that under certain market con- 
ditions a 2-layer box of 30 fruit per layer (10-12 kg net 
weight per box) was acceptable and even preferred for some 
customers. 



Table 1.— Preferred factors for construction of shipping containers for fresh fruits 1 





Number of 








Construction 










Closure 




Accessory items 




Material 


Type 








Style 




















Commodity 




Telescopic 










receivers 


















Wire- 






Tele- 








Divid- 
























Wood 


Fiber 


Box 


Tray 


RSC 2 


Full 


Partial 


Other 


bound 


Folded 


Glue 


fit 


Other 


Pad 


Liner 


er 


Other 




















nber of 


respons 


















































Avocados 


23 





23 


21 


4 


4 


14 


2 


2 


2 


3 


3 


13 





22 











Blueberries 


8 


1 


7 


1 


7 





1 





6 





4 


1 


1 


2 


1 


1 





3 


Cherries 


9 


2 


9 


5 


4 


1 


4 





4 





4 


3 


3 








6 





4 


Grapes 


11 





11 


7 


3 


3 


2 





3 


1 


3 


1 


4 





4 








5 


Limes 


6 





6 


5 


1 


1 


2 


4 














6 

















Mangos 


19 





19 


15 


3 


4 


13 


4 








4 


1 


13 





2 











Nectarines 


11 


1 


9 


9 


1 


2 


1 





4 





4 


2 


2 


1 


5 





3 


4 


Peaches 


10 


2 


8 


4 


6 


1 








4 





2 


2 








3 





2 


6 


Plums 


12 


2 


11 


9 


3 





3 





3 


1 


4 


2 


3 





4 


1 


2 


6 


Strawberries 


15 


1 


14 


4 


11 


3 


3 


1 


9 





5 


1 


3 


4 


1 


1 





7 



1 Total responses may not equal number of participants because of equal preference given to more than one factor item. 
2 RSC = one piece regular slotted corrugated. 



Table 2.— Preferred factors for packing and presenting fruit in shipping containers 1 





Method of 




h 


n porta 


nee of 


Importance of 






Net weight in 


kilograms 




Commodity 


placement 


No 


size uniformity 




box color 






per shipping conta 


iner 












No 






No 


3 


4 


5 


6 


7 


8 


Other 




Place 


Random 


opinion 


Yes 


No 


opinion Yes 


No 


opinion 






























Number of rest 
















































Avocados 


22 





1 


22 





1 


9 


1 


13 





3 


11 


9 





1 


4 


Blueberries 





8 





7 





1 


3 





5 


2 


2 





4 











Cherries 





9 





9 














9 


2 


1 





2 








2 


Grapes 


9 





2 


9 





2 








11 





1 


8 


1 











Limes 





6 





5 





1 


1 





5 





1 


5 














Mangos 


18 





1 


15 


c 


4 


7 


1 


11 





2 


10 


10 





1 





Nectarines 


9 





2 


8 





3 


4 





7 


1 


1 


5 


2 





1 


1 


Peaches 


8 





2 


7 





3 


2 





8 


1 


1 


4 








1 





Plums 


8 


2 


2 


7 





5 


5 





7 





1 


6 


3 


1 





1 


Strawberries 





15 





7 


1 


7 


4 





11 


2 


2 


4 


5 








1 



1 Total responses may not equal number of participants because of equal preference given to more than one factor item. 



Group II. Nectarines/Peaches/Plums/Grapes. The pre- 
ferred shipping container for this group was a corrugated- 
fiberboard box or tray. The highest preference frequency for 
style was an open-top shipping container (tray) with a 
separate loosely fitting top for ease in removing contents, or 
a box with loosely fitting, folded tuck-in flaps that can be 
easily opened for commodity inspection and torn off for 
merchandising. Interior premolded trays are preferred for 
stone fruits and cushion pads for grapes. Each commodity 
should be place-packed, and uniform size is important. 
Attractive color printing on shipping containers was con- 
sidered important for the stone fruits by about 50 percent of 
the receivers but generally was not considered important for 
grapes. The greatest preference for net weight per box was 5 
kg. Expressed preference of counts per box for stone fruit 
varied considerably. Size preference depended on the pricing 
system used (that is, piece or weight). When the market 
price was high, smaller sizes of stone fruits were preferred 
and, conversely, when price was low, larger sizes were pre- 
ferred. Several receivers preferred plums, especially smaller 
sizes, in consumer cups of 250 or 500 g. Receivers in gen- 
eral preferred bunches of grapes to weigh about 500 g each, 
with 10 bunches per box. Several participants preferred each 
bunch to be individually wrapped in paper, and one pre- 
ferred bunches in molded cups without overwrap. 

Group III. Blueberries/Strawberries/Cherries. Corrugated 
fiberboard boxes were generally preferred. Two receivers 
considered wooden boxes to be equally suitable. A tray was 
preferred for berries, whereas either a box or tray-style 
shipping container was preferred for cherries. The preferred 
box design was either full-telescope or one-piece. The one- 
piece design should be closed by glue or tuck-in folded 
flaps. Tray-type shipping containers, most preferred for ber- 
ries, interlock vertically by utilizing a "tabbed" 2 system. 
Uniformity of commodity size was important for this group. 
Color-printed boxes were less important for cherries than 
for berries. 

There was a significant variation in preferred net weight per 
shipping container for this group. Most receivers preferred 
cherries loosely packed in a shipping container lined with 
polyfilm, with a net weight of 6 kg or more. Two receivers 
preferred cherries packed in either 250- or 500-g consumer 
cups, without overwrap. Most receivers preferred berries to 
be packed in 250- or 500-g consumer cups. Preferences in 
net weight per box for berries varied from 3 to 6 kg because 
of variations in preferences for the number of consumer 
cups per shipping container. Either 10 or 12 consumer cups 
per shipping container was most preferred, although a few 



participants preferred 8 cups. The 250-g consumer cups 
were preferred when the price per unit was relatively high 
and, conversely, 500-g cups were preferred when the price 
was relatively low. All receivers stated that net weight per 
consumer unit cup must be guaranteed when the consumer 
unit is overwrapped. 

Group IV. Limes. Limes do not conveniently fit into any 
other fruit grouping; therefore, they were considered 
separately. A full- or partial-telescope, corrugated-fiberboard 
box was preferred for limes. Uniformity of fruit size is 
important. Preferred counts per box generally were 48, 54, 
and 63, with 5 kg as the preferred net weight. 

Preferred Packaging, Packing, and Presentation Features 
for Vegetables 

Receiver preferences for packaging and commodity presen- 
tation for vegetables are shown in tables 3 and 4, respec- 
tively. Vegetables are separated into four groups (I - IV) 
according to similarities of preferred factors. 

Group I. Eggplant/Green Beans/Green Bell 
Peppers/Tomatoes. For this group a telescopic, 
corrugated-fiberboard box was preferred. The highest 
preference frequency reported for net weight per shipping 
container was 6 kg. For these commodities, all participants 
stressed the importance of uniform sizes. Receivers of green 
beans preferred that a vertical divider be used to separate 
the box volume into two equal cells. Two firms preferred 
eggplant to be wrapped individually. Eggplant and green 
beans should be place-packed. About half the firms import- 
ing green peppers also preferred a place-pack. No strong 
preference for attractively color-printed boxes was 
expressed, except for tomatoes. 

Two tomato receivers stated that fruit should be protected 
by using vertical dividers between each piece in a box. Parti- 
cipants stated that only the smallest sized tomatoes should 
be volume filled; medium and large sizes must be place- 
packed. 



2 Tabs projecting above the top surface of a box 
that are positioned to interlock into the bottom 
surface of the adjacent box directly above, thus 
vertically securing boxes in a column stack. 



Table 3. — Preferred factors for construction of shipping containers for fresh vegetables 1 





Number 

of 
receivers 








Construction 










Closure 




Accessory i 
Pad Divider 






Material 


Type 






Style 




terns 


Commodity 


Fiber 


Other 


Box 


Other 


RSC 2 


Telescopic 


Other 


Folded 


Glue 


Telefit 


Other 






Full 


Partial 


Other 


































Carrots 


4 


2 


3 


2 


3 


1 


1 





3 


1 


1 


2 








3 


Cauliflower 


2 


2 





1 


1 


1 








1 


1 








1 








2 


Celery 


12 


12 





12 





4 


6 








2 


1 


6 


2 








9 


Chinese 


































cabbage 


11 


11 





11 





4 


5 








1 


2 


5 


3 








7 


Eggplant 


9 


9 





9 








9 














9 











2 


Green beans 


3 


3 





3 








3 














3 





1 


3 





Green peppers 


16 


15 





16 








16 














13 


1 











Iceberg 


































lettuce 


16 


15 





15 





11 


3 








1 





4 


5 








15 


Onions 


4 


1 


3 


1 


3 








1 


2 








1 


3 











Tomatoes 


4 


4 





4 








4 


1 











4 








2 






1 Total responses may not equal number of participants because of equal preference given to more than one factor item. 
2 RSC = one piece regular slotted corrugated. 



Table 4.— Preferred factors for packing and presenting of vegetables in shipping containers 1 







Methods of 




Irr 


iporta 


nee of 


Importance of 






Nel 


: wei 


ght per shipping 










placement 




size uniformity 




box color 






container in 


kilograms 








Commodity 












































No 






No 






No 


5 


6 


7 


10 


12 


15 


16 


18 


20 


25 




Place 


Random 


opinion 


Yes 


No 


opinion 


Yes 


No 


opinion 




































Number of responses - 






































Carrots 


1 


4 





4 








1 


1 


2 














1 


4 














Cauliflower 


2 








2 








1 





1 





2 





1 





1 














Celery 


10 





2 


10 





2 


1 


1 


10 








1 


4 


4 


1 














Chinese 








































cabbage 


9 





2 


9 





2 


1 





10 











3 


3 


1 


1 











Eggplant 


8 





1 


8 





1 


2 





7 


2 


7 





1 




















Green beans 


3 








3 








1 





2 


2 


2 


























Green 








































peppers 


7 


9 





11 





5 


5 


1 


10 


3 


12 





1 




















Iceberg 








































lettuce 


15 





1 


15 





1 


3 


1 


12 





2 


1 





1 


3 





1 








Onions 


1 


3 





4 














4 


























1 


3 


Tomatoes 


2 


2 





4 








3 





1 





1 



























Total responses may not equal number of participants because of equal preference given to more than one factor item. 



Group II. Celery/Chinese Cabbage. A one-piece regular 
slotted (RSC) or full-telescoping corrugated-fiberboard box 
was preferred by all receivers. Closure of the nontelescopic 
box may be by folding, gluing, or stapling. Most participants 
preferred that these commodities be placed individually in a 
polyfilm sleeve. Uniformity of size was considered impor- 
tant. The frequency reported for net weight per box for 
both celery and Chinese cabbage was almost equally divided 
between 10 and 12 kg. Most receivers stated that 20 and 24 
heads per box were most preferred. Several importers sup- 
plying celery to large chainstores preferred 30 or 36 heads 
per box with a net weight of 15 kg. Individual heads should 
weigh 500 to 600 g each and be trimmed to about 27-cm 
length. 

Group III. Iceberg Lettuce/Cauliflower. For these com- 
modities, a one-piece RSC or telescopic corrugated- 
fiberboard box was preferred. Most receivers preferred 
individual wrapping of iceberg lettuce. Two receivers pre- 
ferred individual wrapping of cauliflower. Uniformity of 
head size and weight was considered important. Few stated 
that attractive color printing of boxes was important. There 
was an apparent preference for two net weights, 6 and 15 
kg. This reflects the preference of large chainstore opera- 
tions for 30 to 36 heads per box. Other receivers specifically 
stated that a 12-head pack of 6 heads per layer is needed for 
successful marketing of iceberg lettuce in Europe. The pre- 
ferred per-head weight for iceberg lettuce is about 500 g, 
and for cauliflower, from 500 to 600 g. 

Group IV. Carrots/Onions. Carrots were preferred packed 
in 500- or 1,000-g consumer packages of polyfilm bags. A 
corrugated-fiberboard box and mesh bag were about equally 
preferred for use as the master shipping container. Uniform- 
ity of carrot size within packaged lots is important. One 
receiver stated that attractive color-printed boxes were 
important. 

For onions, a mesh bag was the most preferred shipping 
container. Uniform size was considered important, but 
attractive color printing on packaging material was not. 

A net weight of 15 kg per shipping container was most pre- 
ferred for carrots, and 25 kg for onions. Consumer units of 
1,000 g of onions were preferred by one receiver, 5,000-g 
units by the other receiver. Consumer units should be 
shipped in a master shipping container. 

Participant Use of Unitization for Imported Fresh Fruits 
and Vegetables 

The extent of unitization currently in use for the distribu- 
tion of imported fresh fruits and vegetables in Western 
Europe is described in table 5. 

Most of the fresh fruits and vegetables handled by import- 
ers are unitized on arrival. No effort was made to determine 



the degree of unitization by commodity; however, partici- 
pants generally stated that fruit tended to be shipped uni- 
tized, whereas vegetables generally were not. Fresh fruits 
and vegetables initially nonunitized at arrival were unitized 
immediately and remained unitized to the first customer's 
facilities. When first customers were supermarkets that 
required unitization on mobile carts for in-house distribu- 
tion, products were categorized as being unitized. 

Table 5. Extent of unitization used by European receivers 





Question 


Nurr 


iber of 


responses 




Some 1 


Most 2 All 


None 


1. 


Is produce now unitized 












on arrival? 


7 


14 


14 


1 


2. 


Is produce unitized at first 












transfer point? 


- 


5 


31 


- 


3. 


Is produce unitized in your 












storage facilities? 


- 


2 


34 


- 


4 


Is produce delivered unitized 












to first customer? 


- 


4 


32 


- 


5. 


Is produce unitized at first 












customer's facilities? 


- 


2 


34 


- 



1 Less than 50 percent in volume. 
2 50 percent or greater in volume. 



Technique and Parameter Preferences for Unitizing 

Fresh fruits and vegetables must be shipped unitized 
according to all participants. They also reported that most 
of their customers would not accept produce delivered 
nonunitized. 

Of 33 firms reporting, 28 preferred the unit base dimensions 
of 120 x 100 cm as established and recommended by the 
Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development 
(OECD), and 5 firms preferred the base dimension of 120 
x 80 cm. Ten firms reported that either size base was 
acceptable. Four participants stated that other base dimen- 
sions used by some U.S. shippers were currently acceptable. 

Wood was the most preferred material for pallets; 26 firms 
preferred a pallet designed for 4-way access, 8 firms a 2-way 
access, and 4 firms showed no preference for construction 
material or access. Thrity-one firms preferred use of dispos- 
able bases for imported produce, and two firms reusable 
pallets. Reusable pallets were preferred only if they were 
constructed to meet the requirements of the European 
Economic Community Standards for use within a European 
pallet pool system. 

Use of acceptable securing techniques to stabilize shipping 
containers rigidly on pallet bases is important to European 
importers and handlers of produce. The most preferred 
securing technique is 2 or 3 horizontal, nonmetal straps. Of 



25 firms preferring straps, 9 preferred the additional use of 
4 vertical corner boards. Wrap-around netting materials 
were preferred by 12 firms, of which 7 equally preferred the 
strapping technique. The tabbed box system as used by 
South African packers was preferred by three participants. 
One firm preferred using polyfilm wrapping. Seven firms 
had no preference for a particular securing technique but 
stated that methods used must rigidly contain shipping con- 
tainers on the pallet base. 

For produce, excessive weight per palletized unit is gen- 
erally not a problem for handlers and stevedore operations. 
Maximum gross weights per palletized unit of less than 1 
metric ton were recommended by 3 participants, 1 metric 
ton by 14 participants, and more than 1 metric ton by 6 par- 
ticipants. 

Twenty-one firms participated in an established European 
pallet pool organized for outbound distribution. The remain- 
ing importers made deliveries on either new or reused pal- 
lets. 

Transport Modes Used for Distribution 

Inbound. Participants were asked to list modes of transport 
used for the initial delivery of imported produce to their 
facilities. Twenty-one firms used both surface (sea) and air 
transport, and 10 firms used surface transport only. Three 
wholesalers used only over-the-road truck-trailers for 
deliveries from principal importer operations. Van-container 
deliveries were considered as sea deliveries, even though 
van containers were transported over the road for inland 
delivery. Sea, air, and truck-trailer deliveries were used by 
two firms. 

Outbound to first customer. Of the participants, 36 
delivered to their first customer by truck and 12 by either 
truck or rail; one reported that some deliveries required sea 
transport. 

Fourteen firms indicated that the distance to most custom- 
ers varied from 100 to 250 km. The delivery distance for 
seven firms was generally local or less than 100 km, while 
two firms indicated the delivery distance ranged from 250 to 
500 km. Seven firms transported most imported items more 
than 500 km to their first customer. 

Conclusions and Recommendations 

Exporters need to be aware that Western Europe is a major 
market for fresh produce from many exporting countries. 
As such, the Western European trade is continually exposed 
to a wide variety of packaging methods for most commod- 
ities. During this study, European importers reiterated that 
this market demands that produce be packaged and unitized 



for efficient handling and for optimal presentation of the 
commodity. General construction factors for shipping con- 
tainers such as material, type, and style, are important 
features to provide proper strength for adequate protection 
of the product and influence the type of closure incor- 
porated. Type of closure is most important to the European 
trade because many product observations are made during 
marketing, and when necessary, produce is regraded to cull 
out undesirable items without discarding initially used ship- 
ping containers. Shipping containers that can be opened and 
reclosed easily without showing signs of disturbance are 
most preferred. The method of placement of a commodity 
in the shipping container is influenced by the use of interior 
packaging and the state of technology used for product flow 
during packaging operations. The main consideration is to 
protect fresh fruits and vegetables against bruising and 
exterior blemishes during distribution operations. Physical 
blemishes downgrade produce condition and seriously 
reduce the salability of fresh products in the European 
market. 

Produce must be well graded and sized. Commodities mar- 
keted domestically in the United States with general size 
designations, such as small, medium, and large, are not 
usually acceptable in the European trade. European import- 
ers must market in Europe according to European commod- 
ity regulations. 

Current European Economic Community and individual 
country regulations for each commodity may be obtained by 
contacting the USDA's FAS office within the country of 
interest. 

Attractive, contrasting-color printing of shipping containers 
is important for many commodities for the Western Euro- 
pean trade. All participants stated that shipping containers 
should have a base color other than kraft brown. 

Net weight preferences per shipping container are of utmost 
importance to shippers supplying this market. Importers 
generally expressed a strong preference for a particular net 
weight for a given commodity. Shippers should consider a 
6-kg pack for commodities listed in group I, a 10- or 12-kg 
pack for vegetables and 5-kg pack for fruit in group II, 6- 
and 15-kg packs for group III and, finally, a 15-kg pack for 
carrots and 25-kg pack for onions. For some commodities, 
the normal U.S. commercial pack equals the preferred net 
weight; for others, changes in shipping container net weight 
and size are required. 

The European preferences for packaging described in this 
report should be considered by research organizations, 
advisers, and consultants to U.S. fruit and vegetable indus- 
tries. The ultimate benefit will be realized in U.S. commod- 
ities' maintaining or increasing their share in future market- 
ing seasons. 



*U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1984 - 421-227/10022-ARS* 



United States Department of Agriculture 
Agricultural Research Service 
Beltsville Agricultural Research Center-West 
Beltsville, Maryland 20705 



OFFICIAL BUSINESS 
Penalty for Private Use, $300 





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