Whom FGS Carton Plant Serves

You might be familiar with Fruit Growers Supply as a steady name in agricultural suppliers for over 100 years. What started as a branch of Sunkist Growers, with an original mission of creating wood crates, has evolved over the decades to serve Sunkist’s supply chain needs and help thousands of growers move their products to market, providing the best care for their crops along the way.

Maybe you’re familiar with FGS’ irrigation system services or one of our many supply centers where we can outfit you with whatever agricultural supplies you need to get the job done right. But did you know Fruit Growers Supply also operates a state-of-the-art carton plant? We produce corrugated boxes for oranges, lemons, tomatoes, stone fruit, row crops, avocados, watermelons, nuts, and more for our customers from California to Mexico and Arizona.

The Unique Strength Of Corrugated

Surely, you can picture the corrugated box that’s become the standard across the fruit-producing industry. We’ve got you covered if you’re curious about the full history of using corrugated boxes. The terms “corrugated” and “cardboard” are not interchangeable because they refer to different products and processes. Gregor Shanks, the Sales Manager for the FGS Carton Plant, explains the difference.

“If you look at corrugated, it has a flute in between two sheets of paper, and that flute gives us the names corrugated,” he says. “Picture a corrugated roof as you’d see on a barn.” Now, picture something like a milk carton, where the cardboard is smooth and lacks that fluting. “In the produce industry, you have to use corrugated to get the strength you need because those flutes create a column that gives us the top-to-bottom compression strength,” Shanks adds.

Corrugated fiberboard containers have been in use for about 140 years, but the idea behind corrugated containers’ strength goes back thousands of years. After all, engineers have used arches to construct buildings and bridges as early as the 2nd Millenium B.C.E. for their unparalleled ability to uphold heavy loads. This same principle is used in corrugated boxes, where the arched flute between two pieces of flat liner boards gives each box its strength.

The FGS Carton Plant

While the FGS carton plant fulfills FGS’ original mission of serving Sunkist’s supply chain needs, it also serves the open market. Sunkist invested $45 million to upgrade the plant a few years back. The result is increased capacity and the ability to make any box known to the corrugated industry. Since those upgrades, the plant has experienced meteoric growth in the open market. Shanks explains the carton plant’s volume of business, measured in square feet. “Last year, for example,” he says, “we did 1.6 billion square feet for just corrugated boxes.” If that seems like a lot, you’re correct. “That’s pretty big for a plant our size with only three machines,” he confirms. “You’ve got to be world-class level to do that.”

While state-of-the-art machines are critical to the volume of custom corrugated boxes FGS produces for its customers, that’s only one piece of the puzzle. “There’s no way any one person can sell a box,” says Shanks. “It’s a team effort, from the designer to the folks in shipping; it’s everybody. That’s our biggest success, and every day I’m thankful for and humbled by our crew and the incredible work we do.”

The team efforts pay off, too. Shanks reports that about 80% of their open-market customers are repeat clients because they’re thrilled with the product they receive. Every box the carton plant produces is custom, from the dimensions to artwork representing the client’s business. But, the team is cognizant of growers’ time constraints in the field and does as quick a turnaround as possible. “We’re pretty fast,” says Shanks. “We’ve got many tricks to speed up the changeover from one order to another.” The result is a precise print on a customer’s box that suits their needs every time.

Sustainable Materials And Products

Fruit Growers Supply is committed to a sustainable way of doing business. We lead the agriculture supplier industry in creating a more sustainable future through our different practices. Gregor Shanks explains the process by saying, “You have a component of virgin fiber from trees and a component of recycled fiber that comes from recycled office paper. 37% of our boxes are from recycled materials.” Each box is 100% recyclable, and FGS’ process of making corrugated boxes to order means there’s no waste.

And that virgin tree material? FGS sources new materials exclusively from vendors participating in the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI). “For every tree cut down, they plant seven more trees to replace it,” explains Shanks. Once the boxes are used, up to 94% of all corrugated containers are recycled. Having trustworthy, sustainable suppliers contributes to the quality and reliability of FGS’ corrugated boxes and, therefore, our customers’ happiness. “We’re probably one of the best when it comes to that aspect of sustainability,” says Shanks.

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