Among the many different packaging options available for fruit and vegetables on the market, the wooden crate is probably one of the oldest. However, that does not mean that they are not suitable for the modern market. FreshPlaza visited Markus Benninger in his box factory in Bundenthal, who was there with Uwe Groll, the managing director of GROW e.V.
Box storage by Benninger: good ventilation is key
The company has been in operation for over 50 years, says the managing director, who previously worked in the used crate trade and has been operating the factory for five years now: "In the past, everything was initially made by hand, with an output of 200-300 crates per day At that time, packaging was also a reusable product and demand was high, also for want of alternatives. "
Different types of wooden crates
The plant in its present form can produce between 1,500 and 2,000 crates per hour. It is still small, compared to larger Spanish colleagues from Spain (who produce more than 3,500 boxes per hour). But what has changed since those early days?
"The machines we use have been in use for 25 years and are continuously maintained and updated. The machines are subsequently optimized in their design and adapted to the respective production processes, and they in turn are staffed by people with large and diverse experience for the very special technology as well as the complex production processes."
Poplar trunks ready for processing
To meet the needs of growers and traders, boxes are provided with serial numbers to ensure traceability. Furthermore, regular hygiene and security checks are carried out. "Problematic pathogens, such as coliform bacteria, do not survive on the wood anyway," says Benninger.
"Unfortunately, the competition from other packaging materials is great," explains Groll. "We believe this is also because our customers and end users are less likely to envision the optimized manufacturing process, so we want to increase awareness of our natural and proven packaging solution."
In purely economic terms, the wooden platforms have no disadvantages compared to cardboard, for example. "Our boxes are natural, sustainable and social, which goes well with the trend towards natural presentation in the shops of large grocery chains that want to create a 'market atmosphere' by using wood," says Groll.
The material is also suitable for marketing purposes for producers, wholesalers and retailers. "In Spain, there are printed wooden boards much more often - in Germany you have mainly preferred the natural look so far and I think that will change with time." The wood packaging also has a positive effect on the goods. Grudge: "The material regulates the moisture well: the product neither lies in water, nor does it dry out." This is particularly advantageous in the case of a cold chain failure.
The disposal of the crates is also no problem, explains Benninger: "Wood recycling is very advanced in Germany; we have a capacity of almost 10 million tons per year and even import recycled wood from the Netherlands."
Markus Benninger Paletten- und Kistenhandel, Transporte