Jim Hardisty, MD of Goplasticpallets.com, the UK’s leading independent supplier of plastic pallets and boxes, examines the growing trend in using plastic pallets in the grocery retail sector.
There are a number of influences that drive purchasing decisions. Among the top 10 are product quality, competitive shipping and positive feedback from fellow consumers. These three factors have certainly played a part in the increased use of plastic pallets in the grocery sector – whether that’s to use on their own or alongside plastic trays from the growers to the packers and the packers to the first stop distribution centre.
More and more retailers are beginning to recognise plastic pallets as a long lasting, high quality product, which although may require a greater initial investment – in comparison to wooden pallets – can be reused time and time again, and very quickly generates an excellent return on investment.
In terms of shipping, not only do we ensure our shipping costs remain competitive, but due to the large volume of products we hold in stock – more than 155 different plastic pallets and 115 plastic boxes, crates and trays – many of our products are available for next day delivery. This is an attractive proposition for retailers, who often demand very short lead times.
From our experience supplying grocery retailers, customers often want to ‘try and test’ the product first; something we’re quite happy to offer since there is no better way of demonstrating the benefits of returnable plastic pallets than using them in a true life scenario.
We’re also seeing a lot of interest with some of the major players, who are starting to investigate operating their own plastic pallet pools for handling fresh produce, by renting them to suppliers alongside their current plastic tray rental. As they already have a successful working model for plastic trays, giving them control of the handling process and financial aspect and providing a significant and profitable income trail, it’s a concept which can be easily applied to plastic pallets.
The major supermarkets operate highly sophisticated closed and fenced loops with their dedicated depots, suppliers and back of store operators, so the possibility of losing a plastic pallet in the supply chain is negligible.
Another area witnessing an increase in plastic pallet use is the enormous e-fulfilment warehouses springing up in various locations. These newly built warehouses are entirely automated making the decision to ‘go plastic’ an easy one; since plastic pallets are a consistent size and strength, and there is no risk of nails, splinters and loose competent parts causing blockages and costly machine downtime.
I believe the two main drivers for the shift from wooden to plastic pallets are hygiene – plastic pallets being inherently more hygienic as they can be easily and thoroughly cleaned without the risk of damage and mould growth, and their superior lifespan which often exceeds 10 years in normal handling and loading scenarios.
Sadly the UK still lags some way behind mainland Europe, where many of the major retailers have already fully embraced plastic pallets for distribution and in store displays. There have been some record orders placed recently for plastic pallets in the European grocery sector, from Germany to Spain, so we’re confident it won’t be too long before plastic pallets are adopted more widely in the UK grocery sector.
Tel: 01323 744057