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Eastern Propak ready to open the doors to new facility

Imagine the vastness of nearly three connected football fields. Glassboro, NJ-based Eastern Propak will have about that amount of space when it opens the doors to its new 70,000-square-foot expanded facility, which is connected to its existing 100,000-square-foot operation.IMG 1785

Jeff Danner, general manager of the company, told The Produce News that the new building is expected to be completed and ready for operation in the middle of May. “We still have some detail work to finish, but we’re at the point of wrap-up,” said Danner. “We have to coordinate the installation of thousands of racks and a lot of other equipment, including new blueberry processing equipment. We’re looking for a conditional operating permit in early May that will allow us to get started.”

He said the new facility would be open in time for Eastern Propak’s import programs. “These include apples and pears from Chile, and Southern Hemisphere citrus,” noted Danner. “These are major programs for us.”

The expansion includes two sections of freezer rooms. These will enable the company to process 1.5 million pounds of fresh blueberries to frozen product. “We’ll start this program in late June,” said Danner. “The blueberries will be packaged in a variety of sizes. The program is for the Jersey Fruit cooperative. It’s all Jersey product with Jersey-based growers who participate in the Jersey Fresh and Jersey Grown initiatives.”

Jersey Fruit is a farmer-owned cooperative that was established in 1940. Today it is the largest peach and nectarine shipper in New Jersey. The co-op is also one of the largest shippers of fresh blueberries in the state. Product is sold under the Jersey Fruit label. Jersey Fruit and Eastern Propak are major supporters of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and its initiatives.

“The NJDA always brings a group of professionals from other areas in the country to visit our facility,” said Danner. “We demonstrate our efficiencies and explain how we do things, and we in turn listen to how they do things.”

Eastern Propak fulfills a long list of services for its customers, including receiving, repacking, shipping and cold storage. It also handles domestic and offshore product with customized services for each client.

The company has been on a strong growth curve for many years, and the large expansion project was designed to accommodate its growth — and it was sorely needed. Danner said that in recent years the company was storing as much product off site as it was on site. Many new programs and projects are on the drawing table for the new facility.

“At 170,000 square feet, when you walk through the space it just seems unending,” noted Danner.

The company is at the top of its mark with its food-safety certifications and initiatives.

“When we go through out Primus GFS inspection in August, the new facility will be included,” said Danner. “We have a pest control agency in place and ready to get set up. We have also hired a food- safety manager. To us, food safety is not an option — it’s essential.”

The state of New Jersey has expressed interest in the Eastern Propak facility and expansion. The company hopes that dignitaries from the state will come to the facility to participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The date for the event has not yet been set.

“We will be ready for the tropicals movement, which will run into late fall,” said Danner. “The grape programs will start in October, a little early than usual. We’re here for anything the guys in New Jersey need. We support the entire group, especially the blueberry and peach growers,” said Danner. “We pack all of their fruit.”

The building is connected to its existing facility  via a tunnel. “The tunnel is 75 feet long by 50 feet wide,” said Danner. “There is a two-way traffic lane inside for pallet and forklift movement in both directions.