(Dec. 16, 12:19 p.m.) WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Citrus grower-shipper Wm. G. Roe & Sons Inc. is branching into produce consolidation.

The packer and marketer established Central Florida Repacking to provide forward distribution services to shippers and distributors that run into problems when their loads arrive at central Florida distribution centers.

Roe has transformed part of a building about a mile away from its citrus packinghouse into the repacking operation.

That facility also houses Wm. G. Roe & Sons’ blueberry packing line.

Central Florida Repacking has 40,000 to 45,000 square feet of cooling capacity, three separate temperature zones and dry storage space.

Wm. G. Roe & Sons president Quentin Roe said he bought the facility to help with packing during busy seasonal times when items such as valencia oranges surge in volume. He realized it could be used to help the many produce distribution centers located within 25 miles of the company’s operations.

Retailers including Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets Inc.; Sweetbay, Tampa; Winn-Dixie Stores Inc., Jacksonville; Albertsons Inc., Boise, Idaho;. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Bentonville, Ark.; and Save-A-Lot Food Stores Inc., St. Louis, all have distribution centers within the populous Interstate 4 Tampa to Orlando corridor.

Such a repacking facility, Roe said, could provide flexibility for shippers that occasionally experience problems distributing to the distribution centers.

Distributors might develop problems with deliveries such as having a truck shifting a pallet or product becoming decayed and in need of repacking. Central Florida Repacking will pick up the product, repack and recondition the produce for proper distribution, Roe said.

A California shipper, for example, could sell to three to four Florida distribution centers with each wanting two pallets on separate days.

“People don’t think about forward distribution, but with the costs of freight anymore, the need to put full truckloads together and have one pickup and one drop, getting it across the country is important,” Roe said. “You have terminal markets around the country that serve the same purpose, but they buy the product and resell it to smaller retailers in their marketplaces. For us, what’s different is that we are allowing the shipper to control the product all the way through the distribution. If you have a problem, we’re there to pick up the pieces.”

Roe said he also plans to use the facility to help shippers in smaller and shorter deals such as pumpkins, whose deal only lasts a month.

Will Chavez, Central Florida Repacking’s warehouse manager, said the facility can cool corn that had been rejected from 70 degrees to 36 degrees and that the area occasionally sees troubled arrivals of Southern Hemisphere blueberries, which need reworking.

Chavez said Central Florida Repacking recently had to repack three loads of California grapes that were underweight.

“With the cost of freight these days, truckers just spot-pick,” Chavez said. “And they can run into delays.”

Roe packs blueberries and citrus, including tangerines, tangelos, temples, navels, valencias, pummelos and clementines.

Roe & Sons launches Central Florida Repacking
Will Chavez (left), warehouse manager for Central Florida Repacking, Winter Haven, Fla., and Phil Carter, assistant manager, examine some lemons. Quentin Roe, president of Wm. G. Roe & Sons Inc., says he started Central Florida Repacking to provide load repacking and consolidation for shippers sending product into the populous central Florida region.