Centralized Packing has become a Game Changer for Divine Flavor’s Table Grape Program
Nogales, AZ- In recent seasons, Divine Flavor and its growing locations at Grupo Alta have been converting all their field packing operations into centralized packing facilities. These improvements to their infrastructure have not only resulted in better outcomes with the quality of the crop, but it has also enhanced other areas throughout the company as it relates to timing, food safety, and work morale amongst the employees.
In 2019, one of Divine Flavor/Grupo Alta’s largest grape growing fields, Pozo Manuel, opened its brand new packing facility for the season becoming one of the largest of its kind for packing table grapes.
The facility, occupying more than 6,500 square meters, 10 packing lines, and the latest modern features, was designed to incorporate the best processes for a grape grower’s table grape season.
The main factors include ample spacing for receiving which allow for better quality control and arrangement of the product when packing multiple varieties and presentations. Once the grapes are harvested and inspected in the vineyards, they are brought to the centralized packing facility for further inspection in proper temperatures meant for grapes. In past seasons, all the processes took place in the field, but having a facility designated for thorough and proper packing cold temperatures has given companies such as Grupo Alta and their teams the ability to pack accurately and more efficiently.
Each packing line is equipped with large monitors which review packing specifications per presentation. This inclusion, along with having quality supervisors stationed at each packing line, has significantly contributed to achieving better quality and improved conditioning across the board.
One of the most noteworthy factors of having a centralized packing facility is how it has improved morale and productivity amongst the workers. The new packing facility at Pozo Manuel is air conditioned, well-lit, and music is played for the workers to create a fun and stress-free environment. The packing crews even have competitions with-in the production lines to see who packs the fastest while maintaining accuracy. The packing supervisors are constantly looking for ways to bring out the best results, not only with the product, but with the employees as well.
Since the facility became operational, Divine Flavor/Grupo Alta’s new centralized packing shed at Pozo Manuel has been exactly what the company envisioned and has served as the perfect starting point in the supply chain to providing consumers the best eating table grapes.
How centralized packing has improved food safety & quality
Q & A with Arturo Hinojos
1. What are the main benefits of Pozo Manuel's new centralized packaging?
“Since opening our new packing facility, there have been many areas of improvement. We have better organization and storage of our packing material which minimizes errors or waste of boxes, bags, or anything we use to pack grapes. Our final product and the materials are much cleaner because there’s less dust. There are very good working stations which allow us to have thorough quality inspections and detection of problems. By using centralized packing in our process, it greatly improves our presentation throughout; accurate weights, proper labeling, and only the best fruit.”
2. How is this different from packaging in vineyards? How has the quality and freshness improved?
“The quality has improved a lot and there is much more control of all factors, including cleaner packaging, better inspection of the bunches, and checking for defects in more comfortable working conditions. We no longer have to deal with dust in the bags or clamshells, or working in the strong desert heat. Having centralized packing has also allowed better handling of the fruit. We spend less time having to pre-cool as the grapes are not as heated. Now, the grapes reach the central packaging in a bag with holes that allow it to gradually lose heat while it waits to be packed. When it was packed in the field, it took longer for the fruit already being in the bag or the clam, waiting to reach pre-cooled conditions.”
3. How has the new packaging improved food safety?
“It has improved greatly because you have a safer closed place, with controlled access where you have control of all possible risks. The packing material is in closed sections of the warehouse, there are wash stations at every corner, and everything is very modern to eliminate potential risk. It is a much safer product for the customer because it goes through channels which incorporate great food safety practices. The facility was built for it.”
4. What was the main reasoning behind building a new centralized packing facility?
“The main purpose of a centralized packing facility has been to pack on a large scale while maintaining the best and freshest product. On an average day during the season, we can pack close to 50 thousand boxes, and having an equipped centralized packing shed allows our team to pack at a high and professional standard. It gives the client the guarantee of weight in all presentations and all details per presentation are accurate. We have the flexibility of multiple types of packaging, two-color, three-color, 2 lbs, 3lbs, 4 lbs. Overall, it’s better control of materials, the product, and our packing teams.”
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