Cumming, Ga.-based Innovative Packaging Solutions will sell the Posie Packer Produce Bag Labeling Machine in the southeastern U.S.
Cumming, Ga.-based Innovative Packaging Solutions will sell the Posie Packer Produce Bag Labeling Machine in the southeastern U.S.

Canada-based Posie Packer Corp. is extending the reach of its bag-labeling machine in the United Kingdom — and is eyeing the U.S. market.

The company named Cumming, Ga.-based Innovative Packaging Solutions as a dealer in the southeastern U.S. recently.

The Posie Packer Produce Bag Labeling Machine applies time-sensitive information — like traceability batch codes, pull and best-before dates, or country of origin labeling — to poly bags. Promotional labels are also possible.

Posie Packer has made inroads in the United Kingdom. Earlier in November, Len Wright Salads of Preston, Lancashire, adopted the machine to label wicketed produce bags for hothouse lettuce, curly lettuce and celery. Last year Adrian Scripps Ltd. of Tonbridge, Kent, also adopted it. The machine can be used with existing bag-filling equipment in warehouses for items like apples or potatoes, or with field-packed vegetables like celery and lettuce.

Movement in the U.S. has been slow, but Posie Packer president John Vandergrift expects that to start changing with the push toward item-level traceability and the partnership with Innovative Packaging.

“The UK market is probably two years ahead of North America on item-level traceability,” Vandergrift said. “My reception at PMA was warmer this year than last. People know it’s finally coming here as well. Publix made a commitment to go to item traceability.

“The UK may set up a model for what could happen in North America,” he said. “There’s a strategic advantage for packers to get on the traceability bandwagon ahead of the market.”

One difference between the countries, Vandergrift said, is that in the United Kingdom more than 80% of produce is sold in poly bags.

“Very little is sold in bulk,” he said. “I could see bulk decreasing over time from a food safety standpoint,” he said. “Bags are the lowest-cost method and have a smaller sustainability footprint than punnets (clamshells).”

The origins of the labeler go back to 2007, when an apple grower who sold to UK-based Tesco approached Vandergrift at a floral show in Amsterdam. Applying labels to apple bags by hand was pinching profits. Could it be automated? To answer that Vandergrift, whose background is in cut flowers, turned increasing attention to produce.

A customized two-label machine sells for about $40,000, including freight and other charges. A single-label machine goes for about $29,000. Both types can handle either plastic or paper labels. Information — batch codes, for example — is human-readable. That’s a feature UK buyers require, Vandergrift said.

For Len Wright Salads, dual labels were the key selling point.

“Significantly cutting our labor costs of applying the mandated labels,” Ian Torley, managing director, said in a news release.

The machines are imported from Guelph, Ontario-based Posie Packer, but service and sales support are available in the United Kingdom.

“Item traceability is coming to North America and many of my customers use poly bags for their products,” Walter Brookbank, president of Innovative Packaging, said in a separate news release.

“We’ve got to increase the confidence of the consumer in buying produce,” Vandergrift said. “Case traceability has some flaws in it. Even at the store level they may not know where the items are that were in the case.”