U.S. Apple evaluating codes for apples

03/30/2009 12:00:00 AM
Bob Luder

(March 30, 2:15 p.m.) At the behest of the Produce Marketing Association, the U.S. Apple Association is evaluating Price Look-Up codes for apples.

It’s about time, said Mark Seetin, U.S. Apple’s director of regulatory and industry affairs.

“PLU codes began roughly 20 years ago, and they’d never been reviewed,” said Seetin, who is providing staff direction for the project. “Apples have the largest number of PLU codes, with more than 200. PMA was concerned that the universal numbers have been climbing. Some might not even be in use anymore.”

Basically, it’s a house cleaning, culling numbers that are no longer in use so they can be reserved for other fruits or vegetables, he said.

PLU codes are four-digit numbers (five digit for organic produce) that designate the variety and size of the fruit/vegetable so that retailers can be sure they’re charging the right amount.

“It’s a cross reference for what the product is versus what price is being charged for it,” said Alicia Calhoun, education director for the PMA Foundation, previously the association’s director of industry technology and standards.

Calhoun said the process actually began about 1.5 years ago when another commodity board representing mangoes approached PMA requesting research into that fruit’s PLU codes.

“That started conversations that it might be a good idea to look at which codes were still relevant and being used,” she said. “Just give it a once-over to make sure we’re up to date.”

The apple association reports to PMA’s Produce Electronic Identification Board (PEIB), which then reviews the data to determine which of the existing codes are still applicable in the marketplace.

Led by U.S. Apple’s grades and standards subcommittee, chaired by Scott Swindeman, the PEIB review group includes marketers and others representing a broad geographic and cross section of the produce industry.

“The survey is completed and compiled,” Seetin said, and the next PEIB meeting is in October.



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