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Kurt Zuhlke & Associates introducing new corrugated packaging

by Christina DiMartino | November 03, 2011
Cindy and Kurt Zuhlke of Kurt Zuhlke & Associates with one of the company’s four-count apple clamshells, which is made from recycled PET plastic.

Kurt Zuhlke & Associates in Bangor, PA, a leader in developing and producing packaging products for the produce and other industries, will introduce its new corrugated items at the Nov. 7-9 New York Produce Show & Conference in New York City.

Kurt Zuhlke Jr., president and chief executive officer of the company, said, “Our new corrugated shipping boxes were developed to match clamshell sizes. They are made of totally recyclable materials, and most will fit a five-pound box.”

He added that the company will be exhibiting at Booth 1201 at the show.

Mr. Zuhlke said that he feels the timing of the New York show is OK, despite being so close to the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit event, and he expects strong attendance. “People like coming to New York City,” he said. “It’s a popular location, and the weather in November is still pretty good. The Northeast is a huge circular market that spans from Washington, DC, to Boston, Massachusetts, and west to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is home to about 180 million people. But New York City is a draw to people from around the world, so the turnout should be wonderful.

“The success of last year’s show was great,” Mr. Zuhlke continued. “Many people are going this year that didn’t last year, the first year the show was held, because of the strong feedback that resulted from it. I hear that an additional approximate 60 exhibition booths are being added this year. The Hilton is large, but if this show gets any larger, they may have to consider moving it to a larger location in the future.”

Mr. Zuhlke said that the company enjoyed great success at the PMA Fresh Summit, noting that he thinks that about 70 percent of the people walking the floor were from offshore companies based in places such as South America, Europe and Asia. “We definitely saw more people from abroad than from the U.S.,” he said. “And these offshore companies are looking to us for packaging options. Much of the product they ship into the U.S. is repacked here, so it makes sense for them to do their packaging business with us.”

Asked about the new paper item-level containers that some companies have recently introduced, Mr. Zuhlke said that he questions how long the trend will last. “Corrugated and paper containers were used before in history, and companies ultimately went back to plastics,” he explained. “Consumers can’t see the bottom of the product, and that’s key with many produce items. In the 1960s, we used to say, ‘Buy what you see and see what you buy’ a lot in the industry. And, how sustainable is it if you have to cut down all those trees to produce it? Paper simply doesn’t have the recycle value that [Polyethylene terephthalate] material has. PET gets between 35 cents and 40 cents per pound in recycling compared to paper, which gets about $10 a ton.”

He added that PET packaging tends to keep fresh produce fresher longer because it aids in the removal of ethylene and heat.

Kurt Zuhlke & Associates is known for its commitment to the environment and to reducing its carbon footprint in not only the packaging products it offers, but also in how it operates its business. The company’s product line is close to 100 percent recyclable, which responds to both retailer and consumer concerns today.

Mr. Zuhlke added, “Retailers are cognizant of the consumer awareness of sustainability issues today, which makes recyclable packaging imperative. Consumers are pressuring retailers for these ecologically beneficial products because they know that they can be recycled repeatedly.”

Consumers are learning more about sustainability, but Mr. Zuhlke said that they need more information from the government and industries to educate them further. More television, press and Internet education will help consumers realize the value of recyclable materials, he said.

“If chainstores are looking to increase their green effect and reduce their carbon footprint, they should have their suppliers look at our products,” said Mr. Zuhlke. “Even with the industry advances in recent years, there is still too much waste going into landfills today.”