Darrell Genthner, director of marketing and development, says that the company not only will support the 21st Century lifestyle on the go with its new concept of Clementine three-packs, but also will continue to offer the traditional five-pound crates for the larger users. Roe & Sons has stayed at the forefront of the movement to cut back on the glut of non-recyclable products which are overfilling our landfills. A trailblazer in the organic juice line with its sister companies, Blue Lake Citrus in Florida and Noble Juice in California, Roe developed its E-bottle packaging, which includes an environmentally friendly, compostable bottle as well as compostable labels.
Genthner says that the Clementines, which require a hot, dry climate, can't be commercially grown in Florida. The so-called Christmas orange comes from Spain from September through the end of February. From March through April they're grown in California. Quentin Roe, vice president of the Fresh Fruit Division of the company, which helped Roe & Sons proactively organize a risk management program some six years ago, also created an export program to ship tangerines from the US to Taiwan.
The pressure sensitive label, which contains the SKU bar code for the fruit, has a number of "green" embellishments, including the PLA (corn based) compostable label stock. Dave Frederick, sales manager for Donnick Label Systems of Jacksonville, FL, USA, which produces the label, says that "taking the time to overcome a number of obstacles is worth all the trouble if it contributes to lowering our dependency on landfills. Doing something positive for the environment really makes this a feel good product."
Frederick adds, "When we first looked at the PLA product, we had to overcome the hurdle that it was a little more brittle than other substrates Donnick Label had worked on." It wasn't simply a case of putting the material on the press and cranking out labels. "We ran these labels on a 10" Mark Andy 2200 press and because the labels were constructed with a non-porous, plastic-type face sheet as well as being automatically affixed to the PLA clamshells, we couldn't use any of our existing dies. We sent the material to RotoMetrics, and they were able to provide us with dies that didn't have any liner cut-through problems. They worked very well on press."
An avid proponent of protecting the environment, Frederick points out that even if there were a shortage of corn due to its being used for ethanol, there are a number of countries that could provide corn or other sustainable growth products to produce artificial label materials.
New products on the way
Not content to rest on their laurels, Roe & Sons will be bringing a new citrus fruit to market in January 2009 to evaluate customer reaction. This unusual variety is called Sugar Bells and the fruit is bell shaped, small in size and with few if any seeds. Genthner says, "We've also been able to carve a niche in the citrus market with our Pummelos, a sweet grapefruit strain which originated in China but is now grown in both California and Florida as well as the Caribbean. We've increased our sales volume of this unusual fruit by 100 percent in the past couple of years, primarily due to our patented PLU sticker (PS label), which contains printed customer triggers (describes how to select the fruit, health benefits, preparation and articulates how the fruit tastes). In addition to the PLU sticker, many traditional grapefruit users are trading up their purchases to Pummelos."
Sweeter than the average grapefruit, the Pummelo is eaten not only as a citrus fruit but used in Thai salads with wing beans and grilled prawns, as well as the Vietnamese Goi Buoi, which includes crabmeat, chicken, Pummelo sections, and vegetables. Some consumers even include Pummelo in a fruit-on-a-stick concoction by putting bite size chunks of it along with other fruit chunks, covering with orange juice and inserting a stick prior to freezing.
Operating among corporate giants in the citrus industry, W.G. Roe & Sons is a fourth generation family-run business that employs up to 325 employees. The company's mission is to do the right thing for the environment, which is what led to the decision to go with the PLA packaging and labels. "Even in the face of competition," says Genthner, "we at Noble Worldwide believe it is worth the extra cost and we are willing to lead our industry in this initiative."
Regardless of the strides and innovations which W.G. Roe & Sons and Donnick Label Systems make, the real breakthrough is going to come from the people who do the shopping and buying. Manufacturing a label that can be compostable is one thing – getting people to stop and think about what is in the packaging they're buying and how it can be disposed of is a small but important step toward improving the environment.