Posts Tagged “strawberry”

In-Transit Issues – Part IV: Shippers Cutting Corners can be Costly

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DSCN0730(Note: This  was originally planned as a five-part series, but is now turning into a 6-part series as I keep finding more information that is not only interesting, but I believe can be of great value to you as a produce trucker.  Also, the latest strawberry purchase at my local Wal-Mart, was again this season, a frustrating experience.  While the berries had good color protected in the clamshell container, they turned out to be soft and spongy once I got home and opened it.

Part IV of this series, may provide a clue why my strawberry purchase was disappointing, and why your delivery of some strawberries, may be cost you a claim or rejection at destination.  — Bill Martin)

For example, several produce shippers of fresh strawberries choose to use a non-sealed bag type system, according to Rich Macleod of TransFresh Corp., Salinas, CA, whose product is Tectrol.

In this series, I have used information from  a study by the University of California, Davis/University of Florida study showing the advantages for truckers who have strawberry loads with palletized sealed bags using carbon dioxide (CO2).  The study also is quite favorable to TransFresh.  I’m referring to the research, Comparison of Pallet Cover Systems to Maintain Strawberry fruit Quality During Transit.

If I had not known Rich Macleod for years, being familar with his work, his concern for produce truckers and in general his honesty and integrity, plus his impressive career, I might be a bit wary of a study conducted in part by his alma mater, UC Davis, that is favorable to his company.

However, there was another study commissioned by PEAKfresh, a competitor of TransFresh.  It was conducted by the Horticulture and crop Science Department at Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, entitled, Comparison of the Efficacy of the PEAKfresh and Tectrol Systems for Maintaining Strawberry Quality.

This study can be found on both the PEAKfresh and TransFresh websites.

In part the research states, “Berries  in PEAKfresh treated pallets became softer on average than berreis in the Tectrol treated pallets during cross-country shipments, and this is in agreement with previous research on the effect of elevated CO2 on strawberry firmness.”

Additionally the PEAKfresh commissioned study notes after a two-day shelf life, fruit from the Tectrol pallet system exhibited significantly less decay, from 3% to 7% than other systems evaluated.

So if research is showing that non-sealed pallet/bag systems results in more softness and decay in strawberries, why doesn’t everyone use the sealed system?

Rich Macleod says, “There is a significant price difference between an unsealed bag and a sealed MAP system (Tectrol).  Obviously there is a lot more sophistication in materials, equipment and man power to create a sealed MAP.”

Macleod has been told the open bag systems cost around $8 to $12-plus per bag, while Tectrol charges its shippers $19.25 per service.

“Prices can range from $24/pallet to $30/pallet for either bag or service,” Macleod says.

Continuing, he states, “First off, if you are using the open bag system, you are not injecting any CO2.  If you are using MAP (Tectrol), you not only are injecting CO2 or other gasses, you are trying to keep those gasses contained or sealed inside the system.”

Thus, Macleod wants the Tectrol CO2 levels to hit between 10% and 18% inside the sealed Tectrol bag upon arrival at destination.  Thus, this process requires more material, specialized bags, sealing tape, CO2 injection machinery, etc.

So for obvious reasons, the Tectrol process costs a shipper more money, and apparently some shippers would rather risk strawberry quality shipped to customers, than pay more.

The old saying, “you pay for what you get” certainly seems to apply to modified atmosphere shipments of strawberries.

“Shippers who recommend and sell open bags enjoy a significant cost advatange over those recommending and selling a MAP like Tectrol.  However, as a retailer, given the UC Davis data, why would you pay the same for an open bag service as a true MAP service,” Macleod asks.

And I, as a consumer, am wondering if Wal-Mart or their suppliers are not trying to cut corners on what they pay for strawberries because those berries are trucked across country in unsealed bags.  It is the peak strawberry season, and I can’t seem to buy any decent strawberries!

(This is Part 4 0f 6 featuring an interview with Rich Macleod, vice president, pallet division North America for TransFresh Corp., Salinas, CA.  He has been with the company since 1976, and has a masters degree in post harvest science from the University of California, Davis.)






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Updates on Spring Shipments from Florida, Georgia and S.C.

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Here’s a round up of some loading and coming loading opportunities in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, where produce shipments have been slower gaining momentum due to temperatures below normal.


Tomato shipments have pretty much finished in the Immokalee area and have shifted to the Palmetto-Ruskin district.  Loadings were very light at the beginning of May, but now volume is picking up.  Due to weather conditions some disease problems have appeared, so be watchful what you are putting on the truck.

Florida watermelons like it hot and cool weather has put shipments behind schedule.  Watermelon loadings should be hitting good volume by the end of May.

Mixed vegetables also continue to be shipped.


Blueberry shipments continue to increase from Georgia as new acreage comes into production each year.  In fact, the state is now one of the leading shippers of “blues.”  Georgia should have about 70 million pounds of blueberries, which equals about 1,750 truckload equivalents.

Georgia has about 22,000 acres of blueberries.   Shipments, which have been underway a couple of weeks, are now moving into volume.

Like other produce items, a cool spring has delayed Georgia peach shipments.  There should be  around 1.8 to 2 million, 25 pound cartons of peaches for hauling this season.    Good quality and normal volume is predicted.  Shipments should continue into mid-August.

Vidalia onion shipments are lower due to weather and disease, but moderate volume continues from Southeastern Georgia.  Mixed veggies from Central and Southern Georgia also continue.

South Carolina

Despite cold and wet weather prections for South Carolina strawberries, shipments are good.  Strawberry loadings usually end in May, but this year are expected to continue through June.

South Carolina peach loadings also look promising.  Light shipments get underway in a few weeks.  Florida mixed vegetable loads – grossing about $3200 to Chicago.


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Tectrol-Shipped Strawberries Arrive by Truck for Final Quality Check

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After a more than four-day journey on its cross-country haul, the California fresh strawberry load was just being backed  into Andover, MA Market Basket warehouse dock as the sun was rising.

Waiting with a clip board grasped in one hand and a coffee mug in the other was Allen Moczygemba, team leader with TransFresh Corporation’s Tectrol Service Network and the designated rep responsible for


Allen Moczygemba, Tectrol Service Network rep, inspects strawberry load and takes atmosphere readings using sensor probe.


conducting the final Tectrol® quality check before its Tectrol-sealed pallets could be opened and clamshells distributed to the New England chain of supermarkets and superstores in time for the Mother’s Day rush.

Behind the scenes, Mike Maguire, Market Basket’s vice president for perishables, awaited the TransFresh quality assurance report, well aware of the time and the dozens of equally important tasks facing him that day.

 This scene is one that is repeated hundreds of times across the country throughout the long strawberry season as members of the Tectrol Service Network seamlessly and vigilantly troubleshoot the proper application and performance of the proprietary Tectrol Atmosphere freshness solution for strawberries.  Carefully monitoring and measuring everything from the proper sealing of the Tectrol® pallet bags to the levels of CO2 and O2 inside, Tectrol Service Network inspectors also observe truck temperature settings, strawberry pulp temperatures and even truck loading patterns (away from truck walls is preferred for more even pulp temperatures due to optimal refrigeration air flows).  In short, the Tectrolservice reps are “on the case” to help make certain that the Tectrol Atmosphere systems are properly in place and performing at desired levels to help assure strawberry quality throughout the growing seasons.


Mike Maguire (left), Vice President of Perishables for Market Basket, reviews Tectrol data with Allen Moczygemba, Tectrol Service Network rep.


According to  Moczygemba, the early morning hours at receiving warehouses are tough but worth it.  “Because the Tectrol Service Network may ensure the recommended 10% or higher CO2 levels that are proven to limit strawberry decay, we’re more than willing to monitor every step of the process if it means better berries and more benefits for our growers-shippers, the retail customer and their consumers.” 

Tectrol Service Network Quality Checklist At-A-Glance

Shipping Point Audits

  • Routine spot inspections of all Tectrol® application processes
  • Routine confirmation of Tectrol® atmosphere pre shipment levels
  • Routine equipment inspections operational efficiency 
  • Continuous monitoring and on-site training ofservicepersonnel
  • 24/7 certified technical support

Distribution Service Audits

  • Routine spot inspections at receiving points to ensure Tectrol® performance
  • Verification of Tectrol® application and pallet bag seal integrity
  • Measurement of atmospheric readings to ensure accuracy
  • Network-wide updates within 12 hours
  • Process improvements that are immediate and ongoing

Online Reporting

  • Convenient online customer access to detailed reporting



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