(March 9) It’s cheaper to ship iceless broccoli in a corrugated box than in a reusable plastic container, according to a new study commissioned by the Corrugated Packaging Alliance, Indianapolis.

The alliance study, conducted by Heads Up Systems LLC, Richmond, Va., found that retailers and grower-shippers save an average of 27% shipping iceless broccoli in corrugated, according to a news release from the alliance. This study is the fifth in a series underwritten by the alliance that compare corrugated with RPCs.

A California grower-shipper and a large retailer provided the data used in the study, which examined the cost of shipping 34 million pounds of iceless broccoli 2,000 miles.

A cost modeling system created by two alliance members — American Forest & Paper Association, Washington, D.C., and the Fibre Box Association, Elk Grove Village, Ill. — found that shippers who chose corrugated over RPCs could save more than $2.7 million annually.

The total supply chain cost for packaging, handling and distributing the iceless broccoli was $7.1 million, according to the model. RPCs’ total cost was $9.8 million.

Higher costs were due in part to higher container, transportation and handling costs as the iceless broccoli moved from the grower-shipper to the distributor to the retailer. After they’re emptied, RPCs must be sorted, washed, repaired and backhauled, adding cost, the report said.

In the iceless broccoli model, RPCs incurred an additional $788,000 in trucking and handling costs to get from the store back to the user.

Retailers spend $1.71 more per container per year if their iceless broccoli gets delivered in RPCs instead of corrugated boxes, the study said.