By Terrie Ellerbee/editor-Midwest
Reusable plastic containers (RPCs) help move fresh products smarter and more efficiently through the supply chain, according to Tosca VP of Marketing Susan Heil. RPCs benefit both suppliers and retailers because they offer more durability and integrity than corrugated cardboard.
“The value to the supplier is brand integrity and making sure that they are delivering a high-quality product to the customer. And for the retailer, you’re reducing shrink and damage so you have more product to sell. The economics are really what we focus on with the retailer,” Heil said.
Tosca’s focus is on the high value, high margin items on the perimeter of the store. The company has a nationwide network and leases the containers.
“It goes out to a supplier or grower, then it goes to a retail distribution center and then out to the store,” she said. “Then they take them back to the sort site. We pick them up. We inspect them, wash and sanitize them and then start the next cycle.”
In some cases, the containers also can reduce labor costs.
“If it’s a retail-ready container—like for eggs—it can literally be a shipping vessel. You can transport in it, then drop the wall and put it right on the shelf,” Heil said.
Tosca’s containers also make for better transportation of case-ready meats.
“RPCs also drive efficiencies throughout the supply chain,” she said. “The standard footprint and stacking capabilities allows us to cube out a truck more efficiently, reducing the number of trucks required to move product.”
Making a change to packaging can be significant. Many components throughout the supply chain have to work together.
“We’ve built this really in-depth supply chain model, and we can customize it based on the retailers or suppliers we meet with,” Heil said. “It literally goes through every single variable of that conversion—What’s the packaging cost? What’s the transportation cost? What’s the shrink? What’s the labor?”
Tosca’s aim is to give potential customers a side-by-side comparison of one-way packaging vs. RPCs.
“If it doesn’t make sense then we’re not going to talk about the solution,” Heil said. “But if it does, we want to make sure that they’re looking holistically at it and then understanding where they can potentially get some supply chain efficiencies when you look at the entire supply chain.”
The various designs of Tosca’s containers are the direct result of asking retailers and suppliers what they want and need.
“We think we have a much better container design in general. Our egg container is the market leader in eggs. We’re the market leader in protein,” Heil said.
There is a service component that Tosca offers as well.
“When we do pilots or trials, we spend a lot of time to make sure they understand how that reusable container’s going to work and how we get it back, so we have a lot of custom training material,” Heil said. “We go out for store visits when we’re implementing it. We want to make sure it works, so, very, very high touch.”
Part of Tosca’s broader mission is to help eliminate food waste and that brings a sense of pride for the company.
“We not only move product more efficiently, we are reducing food waste in this country and that’s something to feel good about,” Heil said.