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Eastern Propak prepares for peach season

peachbox Eastern Propak, a state-of-the-art facility located minutes away from the major Delaware ports, offers access to all major hubs on the East Coast and fulfills a long list of services for its customers, including receiving, repacking, shipping and cold storage.

Jeff Danner, general manager of the Glassboro, NJ-based company, said Eastern Propak handles domestic and offshore product with customized services for each client. It serves as a second-party co-packer for Jersey fruit and the company has four local growers that provide fruit that it packs under the Jersey Fruit label.

“We have been doing this for about 30 years,” he said. “We’re going to be starting the peach season pretty soon. We have a state-of-the-art peach packing line that helps us get through this.”

In 2020, the company expects to pack approximately 300,000 boxes of peaches.

“Mother Nature will have a little bit to say about when we’re starting this year, but historically we start around the last week of June,” Danner said. “We did experience a little bit of cold weather when we were in bloom stage, but from what my growers are telling me, we are looking at about an 80 percent crop.”

Last year, the crop was strong, but prices were a little bit down from what the previous three-four years were.

“The eating quality of the fruit was good, and I expect the same this year,” Danner said. “Size should be up this year with Mother Nature doing some natural thinning for us. The minor frost during bloom reduces the amount of thinning that the growers have to do to set orchards up. Some orchards won’t have to worry about the thinning at all.”

In addition to working with domestic peaches, Eastern Propak serves as a cold storage facility in the area and while it’s been impacted by COVID-19 to some extent, it hasn’t been that noticeable.

“We’re blessed here because we are food-based and a lot of what we do in the winter — and currently — is citrus, and the demand for all vitamin C products at the retail level is extremely high,” Danner said. “We’ve had to make some adjustments and have followed all the state and federal mandates and actually added a bit of our own.”

As for peaches, he expected them to sell well in the months ahead.

“It’s one of the fruits of summer. Everyone looks forward to that first peach on the shelves at the grocery store,” Danner said. “It’s very popular. People love the local peach and that will continue through Labor Day or even later.”

He noted there is a retailer program making noise where the retailers are pushing to sell locally grown items, which has helped the category do well in the state. He credits the Peach Commission with having a strong push for the products.

“Everyone wants to buy local and it seems to be one of the major trends in the industry,” Danner said.

Earlier this year, Eastern Propak went fully operational with a new 100,000-square-foot addition that it started building in 2018.

“Our clients’ businesses were growing, and we wanted to grow with them. This is our breakout year with the new addition and we’ve pretty much doubled the company in size,” Danner said. “What we do here is present a very cost-effective product for the repack world and our service level is second to none.”

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