If you were trapped inside a carton without ventilation, you might ripen prematurely, too. Lacking proper circulation, the juices that sustain you would slowly seep from your body. Gasping your last breath, you would wither away and shrivel into a prune. Well, you would if you were a grape. And that’s just the thing that produce distributors are trying to prevent.

As any grower knows, providing consistently high-quality produce in a competitive market does not stop at harvest. The challenge for growers is to deliver a quality product safely into the hands of retailers. In meeting that task, growers must understand the product and its limitations.

Optimal Breathing Conditions

Unique to many items sold in a grocery store, produce breathes, requiring well-ventilated containers for storage. Equipped with this knowledge, Jack Brown Produce, Sparta, Mich., a supplier of apples and peaches to major U.S. supermarkets, searched for the right product to ensure proper ventilation. Jack Brown packs for 100 growers, and transports the fruit as far as South America and the Pacific Rim.

The company has used the same product as most packaging houses — stretch wrap. It is cost-effective and efficient, but the quality of the produce suffers. The stretch wrap allows condensation to form between the wrap and product. This moisture causes premature ripening and dampness that weakens the carton’s integrity.

In addition to condensation, poor ventilation causes other problems. “We are dealing with a perishable product,” said John Schaefer, president of Jack Brown Produce. “We have to be concerned with airflow through the master carton. Like any other living, breathing thing, apples need to respire. If you seal them up, you’re concentrating levels of ethylene emitted from the apples, in turn, causing premature ripening.”

To provide optimal breathing conditions, Jack Brown tried Scotch® Stretchable Tape from 3M Packaging Systems Div., Minneapolis, and found a solution that offered a number of advantages. An economical and cost-effective product, Scotch Stretchable Tape provides ventilation and eliminates condensation.

The stretchable tape provides ventilation for air-sensitive fruit, eliminating condensation that may cause premature ripening.

Good Load Containment

While Jack Brown Produce was breathing easy, BC Hot House in Surrey, British Columbia, was feeling a little rattled — much like its produce being transported on loose pallets. In addition to its air-sensitive quality, produce is also very fragile, bruising easily during transportation. Special attention must be given during packaging to prevent produce from shifting, causing damage.

BC Hot House, a processor of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, needed a way to keep boxes tight on the pallet while ventilating the produce during its long transportation routes. This was no easy task since the company, a partner with more than 50 local growers who deliver their products to BC Hot House to be graded, transports products all across North America.

“Most packing methods, like corner boards and strapping, are applied in an “X” pattern, which leads to poor load containment,” said Brian Easton, materials and special products manager at BC Hot House. “If these methods give way during transportation, the whole load is upset.”

Upsetting the load can often lead to product damage, resulting in potential losses for a company. To prevent this, Easton spent months investigating the company’s options and discovered Scotch Stretchable Tape.

Like a Giant Rubber Band

The tape is a specially formulated, high-strength product coated with a pressure sensitive adhesive. As the tape is stretched, it gets stronger, and the adhesive bond diminishes.

The tape is like a giant rubber band,” explains Easton. “After it is stretched, it becomes stronger to compensate for shifting in the load during transportation.”

The tape is applied by hand or machine in a diamond pattern near the top, middle and bottom sections of the pallet of boxes. The pattern is among the most popular configurations because it provides load stability. If one portion of the individual diamond pattern does happen to break, the load will remain secure.

In addition to the added security it provides during transportation, the tape’s diminishing bonding feature maintains carton integrity. Once applied, the stretchable tape does not stick to the corrugate, preventing labels and graphics from tearing upon removal.

The tape reduces waste as well. Processors and shippers use less tape than with comparable products, such as film and netting. This means less garbage for the grocer.

The 3M Packaging Systems Div. offers a full line of box-sealing tapes, case sealers, case erectors, stretchable tapes and package-attachment systems to industrial manufacturers to help them pack, seal and protect their products.

For more information on Scotch Stretchable Tape, contact 3M Packaging Systems Div., 800-722-5463 and reference 9901 in your correspondence; or visit www.3M.com/us.