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Delaware Ports key to Eastern Propak’s success

easternpropak2020 Eastern Propak, a cold-storage warehouse with repacking and bagging capabilities, offers 9,000 pallet positions and 27 loading doors, and is situated only minutes away from the major Delaware ports, offering easy access to all major hubs on the East Coast.

“The Port of Wilmington is extremely important to us,” said Steven Danner, operations manager for the Glassboro, NJ-based company. “The Delaware River ports is where we get 80 percent or more of the imports that come to this facility.”

Although some food does come in through the Port of New York, Danner noted it’s a much smaller percentage and the company relies on all the ports in the state. Thankfully, COVID-19 has not presented too much of a problem with bringing food in.

“I don’t see a dramatic impact in regards to what we do,” he said. “I know the importers we work with have been impacted to some degree, but as far as what we’re doing in terms of historic comparisons, we’re doing what we’ve always done and then some.”

Part of that is thanks to Eastern Propak’s new building that became operational last year.

“All in all, I see our business increasing, not decreasing,” Danner said. “We didn’t get the new building fully operational until February of 2019 and didn’t do a lot of normal increase in business until this past winter with the grapes out of the Southern Hemisphere. Now that we’ve been fully operational for 2020, we’re building on that in the summer season.”

Normally, the company sees a bit of a slowdown in the month of June, but that’s not the case this year.

“We’ve actually seen a pretty significant uptick in June,” Danner said. “I see the summer season stretching into the fall as being very, very active and numbers continuing to go up.”

Thanks to Eastern Propak’s state-of-the-art blueberry packing line, it’s able to pack domestic blueberries for the first time in 2020 with some of the growers in Hammonton, N.J., often considered the Blueberry Capital of the World.

That came about because some of the smaller growers have historically done their own packing and warehousing, but because they are using antiquated equipment, the company was able to work out a better deal for the growers. Plus, offering cold storage, Eastern Propak is able to save the growers inspection and packing costs allowing for better returns.

“We’re running two shifts of packing of domestic blues and we’ll be starting our frozen blues soon,” Danner said. “In addition to that, citrus is extremely strong and we have a significant level of apples and pears on the import scene. We’re pretty darn busy.”

A recent hire at the company is Janni Pieters, who serves as VP of operations.

“He has brought quite a bit to the table making everything we do a little easier,” Danner said.

Looking ahead, the company will continue to make significant capital investments and improve operations where it can.

“There are some fairly significant changes in the industry from what I hear and what I see and we are in the process of putting in another state-of-the-art blueberry line with top seal capabilities,” Danner said. “That’s in addition to the traditional clamshell. That’s both for a food safety perspective and in response to COVID-19. We’re going to be putting blueberries in a complete tamper-proof container.”

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