The Kwik Lok is much more than just a plastic fastener for bags.

By using a 901C printer, grower-shippers can note lot numbers, field numbers and other identifying codes to transform the fastener into a traceability reference, said Gary Ellington, Midwest regional sales manager for Yakima, Wash.-based Kwik Lok Corp.

Grower-shippers also could have different sized labels affixed to the clips to turn them into point-of-sale materials, cross-promotional coupons or variety identification.

“It just gives them another opportunity to do something, like showing a variety, where the Kwik Lok is a lot cheaper than trying to do it with graphics on the bag,” Ellington said.

The company manufacturers a selection of clips, ranging in size from those used on consumer products, such as 5-pound bags of potatoes, to large ones for 50-pound mesh onion bags.

Optional labels can be attached, providing a larger landscape for information.

The 3/4- by 2-inch P label, for example, can be custom printed on none, one or both sides.

Some grower-shippers have their logo printed on one side, but use an 884 Thermal Printer to note the variety on the back side.

“They can use a generic bag, but it doesn’t have the variety, because that changes,” he said. “They can put the variety on the Kwik Lok, and that satisfies the law. It just gives them more options.”

Ellington was referring to an Idaho law that requires variety identification for all potatoes grown in that state.

Other shippers use the P label during the first few weeks of the season to highlight the new crop.

The larger T label, at 2¾ inches square, typically is pre-printed. But one version has a 3/4-inch blank strip at the bottom that allows for on-the-fly printing of information, such as variety, Universal Product Codes, Price Look-Up numbers or traceability codes.

“We have some customers who are putting 2-D bar codes on it that, when you scan it, it takes you right to the field where those potatoes came from,” Ellington said.

The information and accompanying bar codes can be easily changed as the harvest moves.

Some shippers use the T labels as a type of point-of-sale material and have them printed with quick-read codes that take shoppers to their company websites or recipe web pages.

Others use the T labels for cross-promotions, such as providing a 50 cents-off coupon for sour cream if you purchase the bag of potatoes, Ellington said.

With the advent of the 901C printer, the clip itself can be printed with traceability, logos or other types of information, he said.

The ink jet-like printer uses a water-based ink that is heat set into the polystyrene of the clip, making it essentially permanent.

The information and format can be easily changed with a few touches of a computer screen.

So far, more than 100 units have been delivered to grower-shippers since August, he said.

“We’ve been using this type of system with the same type of Kwik Lok for eight to nine years in the bakery industry because they tend to get this stuff before produce,” Ellington said. “They’ve been worried about the traceability and recall stuff for the last eight to nine years.”

Printing 2 million of the closures would cost about $180, about one-tenth the cost of old-style printers, he said.