(Nov. 17, 2:46 p.m.) A British manufacturer of packing line equipment and software is making a big push for fresh produce customers in the U.S.

East Grinstead, England-based Marco Ltd. started its U.S. marketing in earnest in 2007, and has ramped up efforts in 2008, said Murray Hilborne, the company’s managing director.

Initially, the company’s pitch involved sales of its Trac-It MES Packinghouse Solution line of machinery, which includes work stations, conveyors, high-speed flow wrappers, netting machines, twin-head labelers and other packing machines, Hilborne said.

People liked what they saw, he said, but there was a catch.

“Everyone wanted it, but they didn’t want to pay for it,” Hilborne said.

Now, the company is focusing on the software it sells to work with its — or another manufacturer’s — hardware.

Customers can buy the entire suite of software, which covers 14 different packinghouse functions, or they can pick and choose, Hilborne said.

U.S. grower-shippers Hilborne talked to at the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2008 convention in Orlando in late October liked what they saw, he said.

“I booked a half-dozen re-visits at PMA,” he said. “It’s been a very soft sell. We turn up to their facility, and tell them what we’ve done in Europe.”

One of the things the company has done, Hilborne said, during a quarter of century of business, is cut down on packinghouses’ overpacks.

Packing facilities give away, on average, up to 6% to 9% of product by putting too much product in boxes, adding to the potential of bruising, Hilborne said. Some facilities Marco has done analyses for have overpacking rates as high as 19%.

With Marco software and/or machinery, companies can better control what happens on their packing lines, Hilborne said.

One customer, for example, was able to squeeze 11,000 clamshells instead of 10,000 out of the same yield — with far less fruit damaged by overpacking.

With Marco’s help, Hilborne said, shippers also can expect fewer load rejections because packs are over- or under-packed.