Safeway extends use of reusable product containers to fresh produce

PLEASANTON, Calif. — Safeway on Wednesday announced that it has transitioned to using reusable product containers, rather than corrugated boxes, to ship many types of produce from the farm fields, through the distribution channel and to the final store destination.

This transition eliminated the use of more than 17 million pounds of corrugated boxes, the grocer reported.

Safeway has used RPCs for decades on many of its consumer brand categories, including bread, milk and soda. The company began testing RPCs in its distribution system for fresh wet-pack produce — fruits and vegetables kept on ice until they reach the store — in early 2010.

Making the transition for produce was a more complicated process than for other products because, to make it effective and decrease cardboard usage, Safeway's distributors and grower partners also had to commit to the switch. The transition continued throughout 2011.

Today, many types of produce travel from the field, to the distributor, to Safeway's product distribution centers and to the final store location in RPCs. The company's major supplier of RPCs, IFCO Systems, said Safeway's implementation of RPC usage to decrease waste was the fastest and most aggressive program rollout to date.