(UPDATED March 5, 7:50 a.m.) Gargiulo Inc., Naples, Fla., is using a new kind of adhesive to keep tomato cartons from shifting during shipping to customers.

The palletizer addition manufactured by the Lynnwood, Wash.-based Lock n’ Pop helps prevent damages in shipments by using a sticky film that temporarily “glues” cartons together. The method replaces stretch wrap and the hot-melt processes traditionally used to keep cartons from shifting on pallets throughout the supply chain.

Gargiulo’s Naples and Immokalee packing operations in Florida have applicators for the water-based, Food and Drug Administration-approved food-grade material that’s similar to the adhesive used on Post-it Notes. After use, the adhesive leaves no apparent residue, according to the company. Once workers separate cases, they return to their original untreated state.

Cartons at the tomato company move to the palletizer at about 15 cases per minute, according to a news release. On their way, the boxes pass under a nozzle that sprays a narrow strip along the length of the top of the box about an inch from each side of the case.

Chris Davis, Gargiulo’s general manager, said the system’s size, simplicity and reliability have helped lower costs and shipment damage.

“It’s a huge savings not having to use the shrink wrap,” he said. “It does release well. The people on other end like the fact that all they have to do is put the pallet in place and start snapping the boxes off of it. It is just cleaner and less trouble on both ends. Once the boxes have been sprayed and stacked, you’re done with it.”

Rosanna Cavanaugh, Lock n’ Pop’s president and chief executive officer, said Costco Wholesale Corp., Issaquah, Wash., called upon Lock n’ Pop to see how it could eliminate all of the corner boards used on pallets of Pacific Northwest apples.

She said the system is more environmentally friendly.

“This creates a cleaner environment inside the facility,” she said. “There’s not a lot of webby and stringy residue that tends to mar the surrounding area when you have hot-melt application equipment. Our water-based material is more sustainable. This adhesive doesn’t glue but it holds everything together. It feels like a hand lotion and never gets sticky.”

Cavanaugh said the adhesive creates a reaction between the paper surfaces of the boxes instead of acting like a caulk holding them together.

The system, however, doesn’t work as well with open-top produce boxes or trays.

Cavanaugh said Lock n’ Pop plans to expand its use to packers of other produce.

According to a news release, Lock n’ Pop has been featured in the 2008-09 Wal-Mart Sustainability Forums and won the 2008 Packaging Association of Canada Sustainable Raw Material Silver award.