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Eastern Propak in final approval stages for 65,000-square-foot expansion

Glassboro, NJ-based Eastern Propak LLC is in its final approval stages for its 65,000-square-foot facility expansion, which will house cold storage, repacking operations and administrative offices.

In late June, General Manager Jeff Danner told The Produce News the building plans have been approved.

“’We’re in the final processes of assignment, permits and other red tape, which will take a few months” said Danner. “The building process will take seven to nine months, and we’re hoping to have it finished in time for the next Chilean season.”

The expansion is needed. Danner said the company stored as much product off site as it did on site in the past year. It recently added a new citrus bagging line, bringing it to four lines, and it’s already looking at a fifth. The expansion will more than double its storage capacity.

jeff-AND-SteveJeff Danner, general manager of Eastern Propak, with his son, Steve, displaying Just Peachy Salsa.“Our current building is 100,000 square feet,” said Danner. “It will house an office complex and additional repack space.”

The new building will be connected to its existing facility via a 75-foot tunnel, where a new break and locker room for employees will be built.

“It will have many microwave ovens, a dining area and restrooms,” said Danner. “You have to take care of the people who take care of you.”

He explained that the Chilean winter season is growing stronger every year, but this past year volume was up even higher because of the beneficial peso-dollar exchange.

“Our offshore program starts with Peru in late October,” Danner pointed out. “Chilean boats hit just before Christmas, and by January we’re ramped up. We max out every day through March, and we’re scheduling as far out as five to six days, compared to our normal two to three.”

Danner is also pumped about the upcoming New Jersey peach season. It begins packing PF1 and PF5 early peach varieties.

“By July 4 we’ll be packing Century peaches,” he said. “We’re hearing everything across the board from our growers this year, depending on where the blossoms were when the cold snap hit in April. Some areas had as low as 20 degrees, and they were in full bloom.”

He pointed out that some peach varieties are more cold sensitive than others. Nectarines, for instance, took a harder hit than yellow peaches.

Danner is also excited about its Just Peachy Salsa program again this year. Peaches pulled due to imperfections are sent to a processor who peels and depits them.

The product is then sent to Campbell Soup Cos.’ facility in Camden, where it is made into the salsa.

“Approximately 70,000 pounds of peaches are made into Just Peachy Salsa,” he said. “The finished product is donated to the Food Bank of South Jersey.

“The wonderful thing about this program is that virtually everything — the peaches, the processing, labels, jars and everything else needed to make the product — is donated,” added Danner. “Even Campbell’s employees volunteer their time. It’s the ultimate feel-good story.”

The future is bright for Eastern Propak. Danner explained the company moves forward with a cautious eye always aimed at satisfying its customers.

“We turn away business every week,” he said. “Our first responsibility is to satisfy our current client base. Once that’s done I can look at new potential business. I won’t say yes to a client unless I’m positive that I can service them completely.”