RPCs vs. Corrugated Cardboard Boxes in Grocery Supply Chains

corrugated cardboard boxes

Stronger, smarter, faster, friendlier and just better looking — for sheer performance chops, RPCs really do have it all, especially when compared to corrugated cardboard boxes.

Now don’t misunderstand us; corrugated cardboard can be very useful in certain applications. It’s great when you’re packing up to move, and a big cardboard box can provide countless hours of entertainment for little kids. But when it comes to protecting perishables in your grocery supply chain, corrugated cardboard has its disadvantages. Here are eight:

#1: Corrugated Cardboard Boxes Crush

Sure, their angular shapes and flat surfaces can make it easy to stack one corrugated cardboard box atop another. However, stack them too high or heavy, and those boxes can suffer crush damage — and you’ll experience crushing disappointment when their contents are also damaged.

#2: Corrugated Cardboard Boxes are Difficult to Lift

In all honesty, people are at least partially to blame for this drawback of corrugated cardboard, because not everyone follows safe lifting practices when loading or unloading trucks. However, corrugated boxes don’t usually have handles that are standard on Tosca RPCs. Those handles make it easier to lift and move RPCs, reducing the risk of back injuries.

#3: Corrugated Cardboard Boxes Waste Valuable Space

Corrugated cardboard doesn’t travel as well as RPCs – period. When you use corrugated boxes for transport packaging, the variety of sizes and shapes can make it difficult to optimize cube utilization, leaving you with wasted space on trucks, which also wastes fuel or could cause load shift that damages contents. RPCs are designed to stack together securely, making it easier to use every inch of cube space to its optimum capacity – up to 96″ high, in fact.

#4: Corrugated Cardboard Boxes Can’t Handle Moisture

It’s a reality of grocery supply chains: if you have perishables, you have moisture. Corrugated cardboard doesn’t do so well with moisture; it absorbs condensation and even leakage from packages. If your corrugated cardboard gets wet enough, its structural integrity will fail. Because they’re made of plastic, RPCs can shrug off moisture and keep doing their job protecting eggs, meat or produce.

#5: Corrugated Cardboard Boxes Don’t Display Well

Grocery stores sometimes put product on shelves in the corrugated cardboard boxes it was transported in but with the varying sizes and different graphics – it can sometimes make for a chaotic presentation.  RPCs frame the product and virtually disappear, making the product the hero – not the packaging. In fact, studies have shown that consumers fully embrace the use of RPCs in displays. Better still, those good-looking RPCs can greatly reduce the time it takes to stock shelves. It takes just two minutes to stock a 4-foot shelf with fresh eggs when using Tosca RPCs with SmartWall technology for the display. By comparison, handstacking the same shelf can take 20 minutes.

#6: Corrugated Cardboard Boxes are Incredibly Wasteful

Corrugated cardboard boxes comprise the greatest weight of manufactured packaging product in the waste stream, according to Waste360. That’s a huge amount of tonnage traveling through the waste stream every year, including the portion that gets diverted to landfills and won’t be reused as intended. Every RPC that grocery supply chains use eliminates 1 to 1.5 pounds of corrugated cardboard from entering the supply chain.

#7: Corrugated Cardboard Waste Requires Management

Yes, it’s true that a lot of the corrugated cardboard packaging used every year gets recycled. However, it’s still single-use packaging, because your supply chain won’t be reusing the product. Perhaps the corrugated cardboard your grocery stores recycle will get reused somewhere else, but meanwhile your operation has incurred the costs associated with using, discarding and recycling a single-use packaging product. Corrugated cardboard boxes only go one way through the supply chain. By contrast, each Tosca RPC can be reused more than 100 times before it gets recycled… to make new RPCs. (Why would you want to manage waste, rather than eliminating it altogether?)

#8: Corrugated Cardboard Boxes Require More Labor

RPCs have an enormously positive affect on store labor – which can be a challenge when using corrugated boxes. Not only are RPCs far easier to use for product merchandising, they’re also easier to organize within storage cooler areas. The handling of RPCs at a store level (after the product’s removed) is faster, safer and more efficient – no boxes to break down with box cutters, and no baler needed.

We get that corrugated cardboard has been around for a long time. Its usefulness in non-perishable supply chain applications pretty much guarantees it won’t be disappearing anytime soon. However, when it comes to choosing a transport packaging material that better protects perishables in your grocery supply chain, RPCs clearly have the advantage — and so will you when you finally close the box on corrugated cardboard.

To learn more about how reusables create more efficient supply chains, click here.

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