Before the start of each cherry season we are faced with purchasing decisions for packaging materials for our fruit. The containers and packaging play a fundamental role when sending the fruit to the different destination markets and must meet basic requirements such as: protect the product so that it does not suffer damage, preserve it during the logistics process (stable to changes thermal and humidity), communicate and inspire the consumer with an attractive design and presentation.
The fruit industry has made important developments and technological changes that are related to the automation of packaging and innovation in packaging to comply with the legislation and regulations of the countries of destination, ensure efficient operation and logistics at the different stages of the production chain. such as harvesting, selection and classification, cooling and transportation, in addition to maintaining and prolonging the useful life of the product.
The first contact of the receiver of our cherries occurs when the container is opened, so the conformation, structure and presentation of the pallet are important aspects to consider (Figure 1). To achieve adequate palletizing, special care must be taken in the following points:
Figure 1. Pallets upon arrival in Guangzhou.
Figure 2. Colored corners and PET strap (polyester
-Characteristics of the wooden pallet bases: dimensions according to the requirements of the destination market, dry wood and certified NIMF No. 15 (standard that regulates wooden packaging for the international market and describes the phytosanitary measures to reduce the risk of introduction of pests associated with wood packaging (SAG)).
The pallets must be designed considering the box to be used, making sure that it is well supported on the boards in order to achieve good stacking. In addition, the separation between the boards must allow adequate air circulation between the pallet and the vertical vents at the bottom of the box. We must remember that, although the cooling in pre-cold tunnels is done by horizontal or head ventilation, on the ship the movement of air is vertical.
-Quality and position of the corners: the corners are usually V-shaped cardboard materials with an angle of 90 degrees, which fulfill the function of unifying a load and are also a protective element of the vertices of the pallet, so their quality it must be such as to confer the necessary resistance for such an objective. Regarding the appearance of the corner, white corners have been used mainly, and there are also “kraft” corners, colored (in combination with one of the colors of the box design, (Figure 2) and printed (highlighting the brand of the exporter).
Figure 3. Mix of boxes.
Figure 4. Cardboard grid with corners.
–Banding and strapping: the banding is the palletizing element that allows the different components to be joined (boxes/pallet/corners/grid) forming a large unit. The material of the straps used is mostly white polypropylene (PP) or polyester (PET), they are also presented in green or transparent (Figures 1, 2 and 3), in the latter case, it allows not to cover the graph of the boxes. Regarding the strapping, the number of vertical and horizontal strappings and their respective positions should be considered. In the destination market we have been able to observe the arrival of pallets with 7 to 14 runs of horizontal strapping, affecting their final stability.
A frequent error to observe with respect to the position of the straps is that they cover the ventilation of the boxes. (Figure 6)
Figure 5. Skeleton of a pallet with separators.
Figure 6. Bad stacking of boxes due to pallet design. PET strap covering ventilation
Figure 7. Weak strapping and failure in the
Figure 8. Boxes with the “little Easter tree” problem.
Figures 9 and 10. Bottoms do not fit tops.
-Grids: to protect the upper part of the pallet and allow a firm vertical strapping, wooden grids, plywood with perforations, perforated cardboard with corner pieces (Figure 4) or simply pieces of corner pieces are used. Consider that the perforations coincide with the ventilations of the boxes to ensure the vertical flow of air.
-Separators: to ensure the stability of the pallet, especially in 2.5kg bottom and lid boxes, which is a common format for the Asian market, some exporters use plywood or cardboard separators with variable number of perforations depending on the box ( Figure 5), being important to consider blocking the vertical ventilation to a minimum.
The problems of stability and presentation of the pallets at destination are generally due to more than one factor. In relation to factors that have to do with the selection of materials and the assembly of the pallet, we can mention: weak corners, lack of strapping, problems with the resistance of boxes, “little Easter tree” problem (side of the lid longer than the bottom (figures 8, 9 and 10)), poor stacking of the boxes as the pallet increases in height, inadequate stacking on the bottom pallet base (Figure 6), outward position of box handles (in 2.5kg containers), box resistance failures (Figure 7). Based on aesthetic problems in the pallets, we can mention the disordered position of the labels on the boxes, a mix of boxes with different graphics on the same pallet (Figure 3). Another element to consider is that our receivers do not like the mix of sizes within the same pallet, as this makes their sale difficult.
Regarding the boxes used in cherries for the Asian market, there are different formats, designs and materials. Corrugated cardboard boxes have been used mainly for the Chinese market (in some cases they work with microcorrugated for lids), there are also some versions in plastic and solid chipboard. In the case of corrugated cardboard boxes, these can be self-assembling or assembled by machine. The resistance to stacking, the ventilation of the box (ventilated area) are factors to analyze when choosing the die for the box to use, considering that we must cool and store the fruit at low temperatures and high relative humidity. On the other hand, we must not forget the ease and speed of assembly (manual and/or automatic system) considering the labor problems that we have faced in recent seasons.
The most used format is the one corresponding to the 5kg 30x50cm box (bottom and lid), followed by the 2.5 and 2kg formats (bottom and lid) or suitcase where the container has a handle to take it. There are also MASTER boxes of 400x300cm, where 2 boxes of 2.5 kilos are located, as well as boxes of 600×400 cm, inside which they carry 2 or more suitcases (depending on the format and height of the head) and are normally flexographic printing (similar to a printing stamp), to lower its cost.
For this particular market, graphics and print quality are important factors to consider considering that giving cherries for Chinese New Year is a highly appreciated gift, and where small boxes (2-2.5kg) have become into a symbol of luxury (Figure 11). High graphic print quality is achieved either through preprint or offset printing techniques.
Figure 11. Graphs of suitcases of 5 kg boxes and 2.5 kg suitcases.)
Regarding the themes of the box graphics, what is most repeated are animals (many of those included in the Chinese horoscope), cherries (fruits, flowers and trees) and motifs related to Chile (mountains, araucarias, “moais”). ”, native animals, etc…) or a combination of these themes.
When selecting the colors to use, it should be considered that these symbolize different values for Chinese culture, this is how the yellow/gold colors symbolize wealth and social position, while red represents happiness, joy, good luck. These two colors are the most used in the designs of our boxes.
To further highlight the graphics of the boxes, the different providers of printing technologies have incorporated graphic solutions or finishes such as Deep off, UV varnish, foil and metallic cardboard that mark differences by providing different textures and sensations (Figure 12). On this last point, it should be noted that all these finishes increase the price of the packaging, so it is important to value the benefit beforehand and verify that the gift packaging (2-2.5 kg box or suitcase) is better paid per kilogram of packed fruit. . Because this is a high-end container, obviously the fruit that must go inside must be of premium quality.
Figure 12. Graphic solutions: 1: Deep off: Surface texture/ 2: gold foil/3: UV varnish/ 4: metallic cardboard. (FONT:https://www.flipsnack.com/MMP2020/cata-logo-imola-19-06-20.html)
5 foil: golden/6: Deep off/ 7: soft touch laminate, 8: Metallized foil for Hot Stamping.
Another important material to highlight is the modified atmosphere bag that must be heat-sealed in order to achieve the concentration of gases for which it was conceived and to prolong the useful life of the fruit, reduce weight loss and the risks of development. of rots.
Inside the bag, which is generally gusseted, a moisture-absorbent paper is placed and the fruit goes on it. The purpose of this material is to absorb moisture from the bag, especially the packaging where the fruit drags water from the line of process.
To automate fruit packaging, innovation has been made through the development of laminated lid films that are sealed to trays or “punnets” (from 500g to 2lb) generating a modified atmosphere. There is also the possibility of the Flow Pack system in which the tray is individually wrapped by the film designed with the required permeability to generate the atmosphere.
The containers and packaging, as well as the materials that constitute them, are interrelated, so their correct design and choice, based on technical and economic criteria, is of fundamental importance to ensure that the product will reach its destination in correct conditions to be marketed.