Working with grower/shippers “at all points of distribution,” pallet giant CHEP has become integral to the produce industry in general and the onion industry specifically.
Recently OnionBusiness.com reached out to Rick Overholt. director of sales for CHEP North America, and asked which of his company’s products are most in use by onion growers and shippers.
Rick told us, “CHEP supplies growers and retailers with CHEP pooled (shared) pallets that are used to ship, store and display fresh produce. In addition, CHEP’s sister company, IFCO, supplies growers and retailers with Reusable Plastic Containers (RPCs) for packaging, shipping, storing and display of fresh produce.”
Since the company’s founding more than six decades ago, it has worked to “[help] more companies move more goods, to more places, more efficiently and more sustainably than anyone else in the world,” and Rick said within the onion world, CHEP is there to help all along the distribution chain.
“The earlier a CHEP pallet enters the supply chain, the more value it can bring as it moves towards its final retail or foodservice destination,” he said. “For onions, pallets are most often introduced at the packing shed. They provide a strong platform with industry-leading top-deck board coverage to handle the weight of onions regardless of their packaging.”
The, he said, “From the packing shed, they can be sent directly to retailers, food service providers, a re-packer or a food manufacturer that uses onions as an ingredient.”
Key to the process is the reuse of the pallets.
“No matter what path, when a CHEP pallet reaches the end of the line, it is retrieved from our retail or foodservice participants,” Rick said. “Then, we inspect, sort and repair each unit and start the process over again.”
Onions get some special attention with a new half pallet that works well for retail marketing.
“CHEP now offers a robust 40×24-inch half pallet that can be used for marketing onions in the retail store or providing the retailer with a way to get onions on the store floor more quickly and efficiently in order to increase sales,” Rick said. “It is also proving to be an effective tool for smaller format stores that may not need an entire pallet of onions – so now as a marketer or seller of onions, you have a promotional and distribution platform solution to sell into every retailer.”
He added, “Not only is CHEP trying to have solutions for every step in the supply chain, we also want to have solutions for every type of retailer so our customers can benefit.”
The company has kept pace with industry needs and the demands placed on shippers by their customers.
“Over the past decade, the CHEP pallet continues to be the leading platform for reducing unsaleable goods,” Rick said. “CHEP continues to make enhancements that reduce pallet damage, which in-turn reduces product damage.”
Food safety, of course, is paramount in shipping, and Rick said, “Food safety issues are most relevant for RPCs, which are cleaned and sanitized before each use. [RPCs] have developed a stellar food safety track record since they were introduced 25 years ago. From field to store checkout, it is one-touch to load and one-touch when the customer buys the product. It also encourages proper rotation at retail level.”
He continued, “Both grower/shippers and retailers demand change to keep up with their fast-paced strategies. Grower/shippers push us to find better ways to partner and come up with supply chain solutions. Retailers challenge us to come up with better vehicles to market produce in their stores and make sure we partner to help with reducing our collective environmental footprint. That is why CHEP is committed to a culture of constant innovation, so we can provide our customers with new and better products and creative end-to-end supply chain solutions that generate greater efficiency, cost-savings and sustainability returns.”
In addition to conventionally produced items, CHEP also addresses the organic end of produce, and Rick said, “We supply the organic industry with the same products as non-organic growers. Our shared and reusable assets are inherently sustainable and contribute to the vision of a circular economy that produces zero waste and zero emissions. All CHEP processes are USDA compliant, and our Service Centers employ ISO 9000 food handling guidelines.”
As the worldwide market expands, CHEP continues to address product development.
“Product development from our grower/shippers continues to be value-added products and organics. Partnering with companies on these strategies drives growth. While CHEP is best known for its pallet business, we are more than just a pallet company. We are an end-to-end supply chain solutions provider, helping our customers become more efficient, cost-effective and sustainable at the same time,” he said.
Rick continued, “In a 12-month period, our transportation, product damage reduction, packaging optimization and sustainability solutions have generated more than $30 million in savings and new revenue for CHEP customers. Creating end-to-end value along the supply chain is the biggest trend right now in our sector.”
Labor is another factor in today’s produce world, and CHEP is in on the ground floor.
“The CHEP half pallet is also experiencing growth because of its ability to reduce labor costs and increase sales. It is also helping reduce out of stocks of key, fast moving products at the retail store. This is proving to be a benefit for both the shipper and the retailer. By increasing efficiency and speed-to-market, product spoilage is reduced, and food safety issues decrease.”
The new half pallet, he said, “is a product that can benefit grower/shippers and retailers by reducing labor costs in stores and generating increased sales by displaying them in high-traffic areas of stores. It is also ideal for building attention-grabbing in-store merchandizing displays for onions.”