(March 17) INDIANAPOLIS — A new study released by the Corrugated Packaging Alliance shows that merchandising may be a key factor in how retailers make packaging decisions.

“Whether or not they want a modular container is determined by whether or not they are going to display in that container,” said Dwight Schmidt, executive director. “If they don’t feel they are going to display, that usually drives them toward more traditional containers.”

The study, conducted by Willard Bishop Consulting Ltd., Chicago, is a follow-up to a study released last summer.

“Last time we included foodservice people, who are happy with traditional corrugated packaging,” he said. “This time we focused on the merchandising techniques of various retailers.”

The same group of retailers participated in both studies, along with produce growers and shippers. The follow-up was designed to see what trends are emerging, he said.

For the most part, Schmidt said there was little change. The trend toward choosing packaging that is right for the commodity — rather than using all corrugated or all returnable plastic containers — is continuing.

The study found that, among those retailers who display their produce in the containers in which it is shipped, corrugated common footprint containers are the most commonly requested.

Corrugated usage increased among retailers from spring to fall 2003, accounting for 20% of total produce volume in the spring to 22% in the fall. Growers and shippers indicated a 15% increase in shipments in corrugated common footprint containers during the same period.

The study also found that supercenters and club stores are the heaviest users of display-ready containers. Superstores display 70% of their produce in the containers, while club stores display 100%.