Eastern Propak sees strong peach season ahead
With a state-of-the-art facility located in Glassboro, NJ, just minutes away from the major Delaware ports, Eastern Propak has long been a hub for those on the East Coast, fulfilling a long list of multiple services for its customers, including receiving, repacking, shipping, cold storage and more.
The company serves as a second-party co-packer for Jersey Fruit and has four several local growers that provide fruit that it packs under the Jersey Fruit label.
With the calendar turning to June, Eastern Propak is turning its focus to peaches, and has a state-of-the-art peach packing line that ensures it is a leader in the segment.
Robert Kearney joined the company in November as CEO and noted that while 2021 started a little slow, it has picked up really quickly.
“We’re in a very good position this time of year versus previous years,” he said. “We’re anticipating a very strong third and fourth quarter as well.”
One of the reasons for the optimism is that people are demanding higher quality food, especially in light of the pandemic where people started thinking more about healthy options.
Another is that early indications on the peach crop are very strong, with many believing this could be the best New Jersey peach crop in decades.
“We’re really excited about that,” Kearney said. “I think that the weather, obviously, is the biggest indicator. We’ve had the right amount of rain, the right temperatures and though we had a couple of scares with frost, that did not happen. We were very, very lucky. Other areas of the country weren’t so lucky with weather this year.”
Peach growers in the state are doing all they can to have an exceptional crop and Eastern Propak is looking forward to what’s to come. They expect to pack around 400,000 boxes of peaches in 2021, a record high for the company.
Last year’s peach pricing was based on more of a supply and demand issue. So even though the supply wasn’t as strong. the demand and the impact on pricing helped the growers.
“I think that with a strong crop this year and people still wanting the product, it will hopefully keep the prices at a level where everybody will be happy,” Kearney said.
In addition to working with domestic peaches, Eastern Propak serves as a cold storage facility in the area. It extended its facility by 100,000 square feet several years ago and will have no problem being able to handle an output of more than 4,000 cases this season.
“A few years ago, we made an investment to expand our cold storage capacity and we made the right decision,” Kearney said. “So, any capacity issues that we’ve had in the past are no longer a concern going forward.”
Elsewhere around Eastern Propak, the company’s expanded its blueberry packaging capabilities.
“We have a new Proseal machine that gives us the ability to seal using top seal — the plastic cover that goes over the container where you just peel it back, versus the clamshells,” Kearney said. “We think from a food safety and sustainability standpoint there’s going to be a high demand in the market, so we made a significant investment to prepare for that.”
As of now, the format is strictly for blueberries, but with customers interested in this technology, the company is looking at enhancements to the line where it could package other commodities in the future, such as grapes and peaches.
New Jersey is known for its great tasting peaches, and Kearney believes retailers would be smart to advertise when they’re coming in, creating excitement for the upcoming season and letting consumers know about the expected great crop.
“They’re phenomenal from a taste standpoint, and quality standpoint, and this year, we should exceed expectations all around,” he said.
Eastern Propak has an increased focus on its customer base in 2021, expanding its hours, listening to their needs more and being more flexible than it has in the past.
“We’re becoming much more a company of ‘yes,’ than we have in previous years,” Kearney said.
Photo: A few years ago, Eastern Propak made an investment to expand its cold storage capacity. Now, capacity issues are no longer a concern.