(Aug. 27) PROSSER, Wash. — If Mercer Ranches Inc. has its way, corn on the cob will become a more convenient meal option than it already is.

In July, the company introduced a value-added fresh corn package that features four ears of corn in a Food and Drug Administration-approved microwaveable tray.

Marty Taylor, sales manager for Mercer, said the company had been working on the project for more than a year before it was introduced.

“We ate a lot of corn,” he said.

Mercer began packing the corn the first week of July, and Taylor said there already has been a positive response from Mercer’s customers.

“A couple of stores have told us that they had increases of 20-30% in sales,” he said.

Taylor said the project started when Mercer began looking for an alternative to its Styrofoam packaging. After a lengthy search process, what it came up with was a paperboard tray that is treated with a microwaveable coating, along with a microwaveable film.

“We wanted to steer away from Styrofoam,” Taylor said. “We found in our research that a chemical transfer can occur from Styrofoam to the product. That increases when it’s heated.”

The corn can be microwaved in the new packaging in 8-10 minutes, depending on the microwave. Taylor said the pack has gotten a good enough response that Mercer already is working on the next generation of the packaging, due out by September.

The new version will feature artwork designed to promote the microwaveability of the corn. In addition, Mercer is planning on releasing a three-ear pack in September as well.

In addition to its facilities in Prosser, Mercer has a processing facility in Holtville, Calif. Taylor said this gives the company the ability to produce the corn year round.

The growing program incorporates growers from Mexico, the Imperial Valley, the San Joaquin Valley, Northern California, Oregon and Washington State to provide product throughout the entire year.

For more information, call Mercer at (509) 894-4460.