Bananas are the most important subtropical fruit grown in South Africa. During the 2015/2016 marketing season, this sector alone contributed 44% (R1,6 billion) of the total gross value of subtropical fruits (R3,7 billion) produced locally, according to a 2016 report by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries.

When it comes to retailing fruit, the condition and aesthetics of the products are vital. Bananas, especially, need to be unbruised and free of damage. Until now, most local growers have relied on one-way packaging to move their product from the farm to the fresh food aisle of major retailers and fresh produce markets. However, CHEP South Africa is changing all this, with the introduction of a new reusable plastic container (RPC), specifically designed for the shipment of bananas.

“Most growers and retailers agree that they suffer losses because of existing packaging, which does not sufficiently protect the product during shipment,” says Gerhard van den Berg, customer relationship manager for CHEP. RSA Group approached CHEP to source a better packaging solution for shipping this fruit.

“One of the biggest pain points for the growers is the way that bananas move within corrugated boxes during transportation. The vibrations of the road result in the bananas gradually turning over, which damages the fruit. We had to address that issue, as well as temperature control, with our solution,” adds Van den Berg.

CHEP’s sister company, IFCO has an existing banana crate with design features that suit local customer needs. The local team therefore collaborated and introduced this solution into the local market. CHEP ran a series of tests to substantiate the benefits of this banana crate. They programmed and deployed 32 devices with sensor and cellular connectivity across equal sets of RPCs and corrugated boxes, to measure airflow and impact. A variety of pallet and sensor configurations were used to ensure that a comprehensive set of data was obtained from across the entire supply chain.

The crate ensured that product quality and appearance was the same at the beginning and end of the supply chain cycle – a direct result of the crate absorbing any impact and vibrations, allowing the bananas to remain in place during transit.

Retailers observed an improvement in shelf life for bananas transported in crates, when compared with bananas from the same grower packed in corrugated boxes. They also found that crates were far easier to store than boxes and could be reused. “By replacing one-way packaging with high quality, reusable crates, growers are eliminating waste, reducing their negative impact on the environment and making their business more efficient.  Bananas can go straight from the delivery truck to the shop floor in our banana crate,” says Van den Berg. – Press release