Caledonia Produce general manager Bryon Sargeant (left)
and office manager Lisa Wood pose alongside Canpaco's
technica l sales representative Michael Gordon in front of 
the Pearl flowwrapping system manufactured 

by PFM Packaging Machinery.

Innovative produce company puts a new spin on the timeless dinner staple

Regardless if you say 'pot-ay-­toe' or if you say  'pot-ah-toe', he folks over at Caledonia Produce Distributors have found a new way to package the humble spud to provide a tasty and supremely conven­ ient product that raises the art of mak­ ing a perfect baked-potato the essence of simplicity for the consumer in a manner not widely seen.

Operating a 14,000-square-foot facility tucked away in the west- end of Toronto, Caledonia is a family run business that imports, packs and supplies high-quality produce, coco­ nuts, baking potatoes and Red, White, Spanish and sweet onions to retailers and wholesalers throughout Ontario,

Quebec and New Brunswick.

"Every week, we import 150,000 kilograms of vegetables and 45,000 kilograms of coconuts into our facility," Caledonia Produce office manager Lisa Wood told Canadian Packaging magazine on a recent visit to the 30-employee plant.

While it's foil-wrapped baking potato is by far its best seller, with over six­ million sold per year, Caledonia also imports a  plethora  of  Asian  veggies for sale to large retailers like Metro, Sobeys and Loblaws, to smaller chain grocers and independents, and also to restaurants and other wholesalers.

Although Caledonia first opened its doors back in 1958, the family involvement in the produce business goes back quit e a bit further.

When current owner Joe Polito's grandfather, Giuseppe arrived in Canada at the turn of the 20th  century, he began selling fresh fruits on the Toronto streets.

"Giuseppe took a lot of pride in his work, he wanted to provide quality 
Manufactured by Bemis Company, the Clysar pre-printed shrink film supplied by Canpaco is used to make ti ghtly-sealed tray-packs of potatoes displaying full product traceability information on the front of the pack.

Supplied by packaging machinery and materials distribut or Canpaco, the Pearl flow wrapper applies micro-perforated propylene film to turn  baking potatoes into a nutritious, easy-to-prepare, microwavable side dish.

Manufactured by Bemis Company, the Clysar pre-printed shrink film supplied by Canpaco is used to make tightly-sealed tray-packs of potatoes displaying full product traceability information on
the front of the pack.

Produce at a good price, and he eventu­ally ended up opening up his own gro­cery store in Toronto," explains Wood. "He was so successful that he transi­tioned from retail to wholesale in the hope he could supply Canadians with store fresh fruits and vegetables."

Wood says Giuseppe's son Rocco successfully grew the Polito family business- making it the third-largest impor ter of California wine grapes in Canada. But with wine grapes being a seasonal product, in 1958 Rocco incor­ porated Caledonia as a company, with the GreenGrocer brand supplying pro­ duce year-round across Canada.

"Like most businesses, it was slow going at first," says Wood. "He only sold 490 crates of baking potatoes that first year, but it did pick up steam." That blast of energy was provided by the leadership of R occo's son Joe, who along with being the current Caledon ia president is also Wood's spouse.

"Along with offering a quality product at an excellent price-point , Caledonia also looked at how the product was presented to the customer and began
developing packaging for them," says Wood. "The  addition of packaging definitely has made us more successful."

A plant worker keeps a watchful eyeon the trays of baking potatoes 
making their way from the model STS-17 film wrapper
from Shrink Tech Systems into the SST 148DC heat tunnel, made by RBS
equipment designs, which produces a tight protective seal for each tray package.

Safe Supply:

With coconuts and veggies  arriving at the facility from the Caribbean and the south and southwestern parts of the U.S., Caledonia wanted to assure its customers that the products they purchased were safe and traceable.

"At Caledonia, food safety is a pri­ority, which is why we package our products even while others feel it is unnecessary," says Caledonia Produce general manager Bryon Sargeant. Noting that fresh produce at  gro­cery stores is often left unpackaged, Caledonia 's efforts to provide food traceability should alleviate some con­ cerns in the case of a product recall, explains Sargeant.

"I thevent of a food  recall involv­ing unpackaged vegetables or fruits, every single piece of particular prod­uct is now subject to the recall," offers Sargeant. "That's potentially a disaster in the grocery business.

"Now, because products don't lend themselves well  to the addition of a barcode featuring lot number and other product data, Caledonia  provides a means to the way by having packaging that allows traceability tags to be added."

Wood says that Caledonia was the first to develop a filmwrapped tray of baking potatoes back in 1970, while citing the company's recent innovative developments of individually plastic-wrapped, heat-shrunk coconuts and the flowwrapped, microwavable baked potato as innovative forms of packaged foods that are propelling the way Caledonia does business.

Says Wood : "A lot of thought went into choosing our products, ensuring we know where and how they are grown, when and where they are packed, where they are shipped from, and how they are shipped."

Sargeant says all Caledonia grow­ ers  are  HACCP (Hazard   Analysis and Critical Control Points)-certified and  they  stric tly  adhere  to  the Good Agricultural Practices as defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

Product labels applied to ontothe film-wrapped potato
trays by a model LS-100label printer appicator
manufactured by Label Systems

As for Caledonia itself, the company is a member of the Ontario Produce Marketing Association, Canadian Produce Association, and is also certified by the Guelph Food and Technology Center (GFTC).

"We are currently following GFTC guidelines as we look to become a HACCP-approved facility ourselves," acknowledges Wood. To keep its packaging constantly evolving, Caledonia often works closely with Canpaco Inc., located just north of Toronto in Woodbridge, to supply its plastic film requirements, providing a clear film for its baked potatoes includ ing the printed films for the microwavable baked potato and coconuts.

According to Canpaco technical sales representative Michael Gordon, the Clysar printed shrink film produced by Bemis, Inc. is used for the baked potatoes and coconuts, while Canpaco provides a specialty pre-printed film for the microwavable baked potatoes. Operating as a vertically integrated converter and printer of specialty films for the food and pharmaceutical industries, Crystal Poly is Canpaco's subsidiary specializin g in food-grade film.

"Canpaco has an expertise in films, print technology and automation," says Sargeant, "as well as a just-in­ time inventory management system that provides us with the magic for­ mula for success."

A couple  of  years ago,  Polito saw a microwavable potato pack, but thought that while the concept was great, the end result was not. Contacting Gordon at Canpaco, with whom he had been dealing with for over 10 years, he asked for help to build a better package for his prod­ uct that would help Caledonia cap­ ture new markets through packaging innovation.

According to Gordon, wanted a pre-washed and pre-packed potato product, "and was adamant that a customer would be able to safely cook an ordinary baking potato in the pack­ aging film, while still maintaining proper moisture and barrier properties." Gordon says that Canpaco and Caledonia went through a lot of potatoes and films during testing for ideal temperature and cooking times, and even in determining the  number of perforations required in the proprietary film that allows the right amount of heat and moisture transfer wh ile possessing the abilit y to keep the potato fresh. They also utilized the services of the GFTC to ensure it met safety requirements, Gordon relates. 

A model 1510 small-character continuous inkjet printer from Videjet Technologies cleanly applies barcoded data
onto whole coconuts shrinkwrapped in pre-printed Clysar film.

"We now have a solution enabling Caledonia to take a potato, wrap it in a high-speed format with a printed film that allows it to cook-in fact, allowing the unop ened pack to main­ tain its heat for up to an hour-with­ out wrinkling or drying out the product," mentions Gordon.

Woods adds: "The convenience of the microwavable potato pack is stunning. Whether it's for the  busy  family  on the go, or for single-serve snacks, this healthy, all natural product- no matter how you slice it-is anaffordable, tasty potato ready in minutes."

Despite the innovative work done by Caledonia, it was only 10 years ago that the company first got seriou s about automat ing its processes. Seeing the need to progress  from the effective, but labor- intensive four, manual bar- sealers used to shrink­ wrap its product, Caledonia has since purchased three semi- autom ated packaging lines that have enabled it grow its production volumes while providing a better and safer package. 

Caledonia's coconut line utilizes a Shrink Tech Systems STS-17 film wrapper to wrap coconuts at speeds up to 32 per minute. The intermittent-motion machine uses a side-seal system handling any length of product- so it can wrap a cornucopia of veggies if desired. The STS-17 is also able to run print registered film, and comes with a clos­ ing conveyor for products to bridge any gaps, featuring an infeed system designed by Canpaco to specifically handle the unique and unusual shape of coconuts.

After traveling through an RBS Equipment Designs Ltd.  model AST 148DC heat  tunnel  that  forms a tight skin around the product, a Videojet 1510 sma ll- character single­ head continuous inkprinter adds bar-code data to the surface of the film. "The STS-17 machines have wrapped over seven million coconuts, and about the same numbe r of baked potatoes-all with minimal down­ time," mentions Caledonia warehouse manager Dave Turner. "It's a pretty robust line."

Caledonia's baked potato packaging line is virtually identical to the coconut line, but with a few notable differences. Select potatoes are handwrapped in a foil paper supplied by Deluxe Paper Products suitable for baking. These potatoes are then placed on a #2 foam tray manufactured by CKF Inc., and moved along a conveyor system, pow­ ered by a Leeson Speedmaster motion control, over to a STS-17 film wrapper, which covers the tray with a printed Bemis Clysar HPGT film before mov­ ing through an AST 148DC heat tunnel to shrink the film around the tray. 

aledonia's innovative Green Grocer brandmicrowavable baking potato is cooked
within an unopened pack, made from aspecial proprietary pre-perforated film
supplied that maintains optimalmoisture and barrier properties 

After moving past a Label Systems LS-100 that placesa product label atop the film, a Markem-Imaje Markem 9064 in kjet coder applies lot data onto . The label, before the trays are hand­ packed into corrugated cases manu ­ factured by Royal Container Ltd. Caledonia's third packaging line is used for its microwavable potatoes.Running at speeds up to 80 packs per minute, the PFM Packaging Machinery Corp. Pearl flowwrap­ per supplied by Canpaco uses a pr int ed pe rforated propylene blended film to seal the potato in a protective sleeve with the GreenGrocer logo clearly vis­ ible on the pack.

The Pearl m achine facilitat es full ­ servo horiz ontal pillow pack-wrap­ ping via a flat reel of sealable materials such as polyethylene; heat-shrink able materials with trimmed seals; and lamina ted, bonded or micro- perfor­ ated polypropylene film. According to PFM, the Pearl is a fast-changeover machine, capable of set- up in about three minutes. Says Gordon, "The folks at  Caledonia quickly realized the labor saving benefits of owning a single automated line and came back to us quickly with a request for a second and then a third - Adds  Wood: "We have enjoyed a very successful  partnership  with Canpaco .

"They have worked w ith us in devel­ oping packaging lines that make sense for us, and in product development of the microwavable baked potato."Canpaco's expertise in films, auto­mation and print technology is a har­monious match with our  knowledge in fresh produce, and finding innova­tive ways to pack it," she concludes. " Plus we really like the fact that Canpaco goes out of its way to keep us happy."