“Our company’s motto is to ‘recycle and reuse.’ Once it’s been used we clean it, grind it and create new product,” Zuhlke said. “Many growers and suppliers use our products to pack according to their customers’ specifications, but many retailers today repack at the store level in order to customize their offerings. This means that all levels of the industry are important to us.”
Zuhlke spent the last days of January at a trade show in Hershey, PA, where he spoke with customers about what’s trending in the packaging world.
“Produce is up in price and there are people being very frugal, but other than that, things are doing well; we haven’t had any bumps in 2024 yet,” he said. “At the show, we highlighted a lot of trays and containers we have, especially for strawberries. A lot of small farms — roadside stands mainly — go after that business.”
Downsize containers are becoming more popular than ever, with Zuhlke explaining that many stores are going from 12- to 10-ounce as a result of the increased prices.
Kurt Zuhlke & Associates is coming off a strong year, and it’s been a string of big years since the pandemic first reared its ugly head in 2020. Zuhlke credits the fact that once COVID-19 hit, consumers were fearful of anything touching their produce items, so packaging became much more prevalent in the department.
“We can provide exceptional protection of produce, while at the same time, allowing consumers to see what they’re actually buying,” he said, explaining that there are different sizes for different commodities that are doing well — whether the packaging is for strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, avocados or something else. “People aren’t buying bulk like they once did, and people want food that is protected and sanitized.”
Being successful in this business for so long is no simple task, and Zuhlke noted that offering quality service and a great product are keys to his longevity in the business.
“It’s about the service we provide,” he said. “If you’re not servicing your customers right, they are going to go somewhere else. I’ve had customers for over 40 years, so we must be doing something right.”
Photo: Kurt and Cynthia Zuhlke