IFCO's Wolfgang Orgeldinger Talks 25 Years in Packaging Solutions
- by Robert Schaulis
PULLACH, GERMANY – This year IFCO celebrates its 25th anniversary. From its inception to its current state—operating a pool of over 270 million RPCs, used in over 1.4 billion shipments of fresh food around the globe each year—IFCO has been providing exceptional customer service, lowering cost, and reducing food waste for a quarter-century.
Recently, I interviewed CEO Wolfgang, on the occasion of this auspicious anniversary, to find out what makes the company truly unique.
Q: Can you tell me a little about the beginning of IFCO in 1992?
Wolfgang Orgeldinger: In the early nineties, grocery retailers in Europe were looking for more sustainable and efficient packaging solutions for fresh products. At that time, the first foldable RPCs were introduced to the market and retailers found them very attractive. However, they were not interested in purchasing RPCs and managing proprietary pools. Instead, retailers were interested in a RPC pool which could be shared, used by all growers and retailers, and which would be managed properly by a professional service provider who would ensure quality, availability, and proper sanitization. In response to this request, IFCO(International Food Container Organization Ltd) was established in 1992.
Q: To what do you attribute the company’s prodigious success in the ensuing years?
WO: Originally, retailers began using IFCO RPCs as the solution to the highly variable packaging suppliers used to ship fresh produce. Prior to RPC introduction, products arrived in boxes, bags, and crates of all materials, shapes, and sizes, creating inconsistency and inefficiency during handling and instability during storage and shipping.
The handling efficiencies of a standardized RPC system drove these early conversions, but soon retailers realized product was arriving in much better condition in RPCs due to better protection. In later years, as governments began fining retailers for the waste they generated, reduced cardboard waste system became another compelling benefit.
We’ve grown our geographic footprint steadily in the last 25 years, continuously investing in our infrastructure and capabilities, most notably our wash facility network and sanitation technology. Today, IFCO is uniquely able to support all growing areas globally from which retailers around the world source products. The IFCO RPC pool is a great example of a shared economy service. Recent expansion includes entry into China, Chile, Colombia, and Japan, and we continue to explore further growth—we are now looking at Poland, Romania, and Russia very closely.
Q: Tell me a little about what makes IFCO RPCs so ideal throughout the supply chain? How are recent innovations shaping the company’s trajectory moving forward?
WO: IFCO RPCs are designed specifically for fresh products. They’re made to protect perishables better by reducing physical damage, stacking securely, and allowing for better cooling and temperature control. And IFCO RPCs make transporting and handling produce cases more efficient across the supply chain–reducing labor and space costs.
We are constantly innovating, taking feedback from our customers, performing IFCO and third party testing and incorporating the findings into our designs and processes. For us, innovation is synonymous with continuous improvement, and we are always looking for ways our RPCs can help our customers deliver higher quality fresh food to their customers in the most efficient way.
Q: What’s next on the horizon for IFCO?
WO: Our business is based on serving our customers’ needs, and right now our customers around the world are looking for solutions for RPCs beyond produce. We’ve developed solutions for meat, eggs, seafood, bread, deli and convenience, and dairy at our customers’ requests; our goal is to help retailers and producers glean the same benefits with those products as they already enjoy with fresh produce RPCs.
Q: Finally, does IFCO have any events planned in conjunction with the company’s 25th anniversary?
WO: IFCO will be celebrating throughout 2017 with various events around the world. We recently held a celebratory customer reception, highlighted by our commemorative donation of 25,000 € to the German food banks, at Fruit Logistica in Berlin. We will have similar customer events at trade shows we attend across Europe, Asia, Latin America, and North America.