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In July 2006, Dan Hinkle, president of Hinkle Produce in Cissna Park, IL, entered into a long-term contract with the United Feature Syndicate, owner of the "Peanuts" characters' trademark. He then entered into an exclusive contract with International Paper to produce the "Charlie Brown" pumpkin patch bin wraps.

Last fall, Mr. Hinkle told The Produce News, "The response to the program, all commodities included, has been phenomenal. Retailers are finding that branded produce is very important in driving sales. I don't mean to downgrade other characters, but what is more friendly to consumers than a 'Peanuts' character?"

Since then, the "Peanuts" character bin wrap line has been expanded to include bin designs for other commodities like watermelons and cantaloupe. Bill Albring, Midwest sales representative for International Paper, which is headquartered in Memphis, TN, said that retailers admire the "Peanuts" bins, but some have held back on buying them because of the price. The company is now launching a less expensive bin that should make having them in produce departments more desirable.

"We are adapting a post print, two-color on white paper wrap, as opposed to our previous offering of preprint," said Mr. Albring. "The preprint is a high- graphics box, which is more expensive to print, so more costly even before the box is produced. The new bin will allow us to be more competitive and prevent an upcharge to retailers who want 'Snoopy,' allowing them to advertise and promote the 'Peanuts' character."

The preprint bins, Mr. Albring added, cost an average of $1-$1.50 more than the new post print. The design is similar in appearance to the previous bin but without the blue background. It was designed by International Paper's staff designer, Jerry Farrell.

Mr. Hinkle continues to own the rights to the "Peanuts" bins through United Feature Syndicate, and the contract has not changed in any way with the development of the new bins.

The launch of the new bin-wrap is beginning with the "Peanuts Snoopy" watermelon bin. It was designed this month and will be available in early February.

The introduction of the "Peanuts" bins was in its infancy in California in 2007. In 2008, it moved into the Midwest and to the East Coast.

"It gained ground quickly," said Mr. Albring. "But with the current economic situation, we felt we weren't as competitive as we wanted to be with other programs, and retailers were being more careful in their expenditures. This new box is affordable for everyone."

Mr. Albring said that additional "Peanuts" designs are now being considered for apples and potatoes.

The newly designed bins are available from coast to coast to all producers, shippers and retailers. There are no upfront license costs, hidden fees or royalty charges required in order to participate in the program. The only criterion is that companies must buy the strong, water-resistant containers from International Paper.