This week, just a few short miles away from Inka Pallets HQ, thousands of tennis fans will be descending upon SW19, London, to witness the world’s best players compete for the sport’s most prestigious Grand Slam, the Wimbledon Championship.
Something I think makes Wimbledon so special is the number of traditions fans look forward to every year as they queue up or tune in. These of course include, Murray Mound (or Henman Hill for us older fans); rain delays; novelty union jack hats; royalty spotting at centre court; and, of course, the classic purple & green club colours sported by those brave ball girls and boys. But without doubt, one of the most synonymous traditions (and my favourite!) is the consumption of Britain’s simplest and finest dessert: strawberries and cream! Dating right back to the inaugural tournament in 1877, no snack has been more closely associated with Wimbledon – it is to the All England Club what chicken wings are to the Superbowl.
It is expected that a whopping 192,000 bowls of strawberries and cream will be consumed by visitors this year – that’s around 30 tonnes of this most delicious of soft fruits! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg compared with the number of British grown strawberries due to be consumed over the next 2 weeks, as the UK’s season for the berry begins to head into its peak.
But have you ever stopped to consider the work that goes into the growing and preparing of these strawberries for us?
We thought not! So, here at Inka Pallets, we want to divert the spotlight away from the tennis for a moment, and give a shout-out to the unsung stars of the UK strawberry industry who have been tirelessly working throughout the year, overcoming many obstacles caused by world events in order to get these most delicious berries planted, grown, picked, moved, chilled, and packed, so we can all enjoy them at their unmistakeable best this summer. So, thank you to all you UK strawberry farms, and all your hardworking staff, for all those early starts and late nights feverishly busting a gut to get these beautiful berries into our bowls – you’re doing a great job! P.s. – they taste ‘Ace’ this year!
We also wanted to quickly share how Inka Pallets UK have been playing its relatively small (but not insignificant) part in the industry in supporting many of these UK soft fruit farms by designing and supplying our revolutionary new plastic field picking crate, the PVBI6412-00Mk2 (pictured above) – a genuine step forward in the design of picking crates – itself a very important piece of equipment relied upon daily during the picking season by soft fruit growers all over.
The purpose of plastic picking crates is to shuttle 1000s upon 1000s of punnets of fresh berries on pallets from the farms’ fields, where the berries are grown, back to the farm packhouse to be chilled down, packed, and sent on to the supermarkets for us, the public, to enjoy as fresh as possible.
So, what makes a good fruit picking crate? There are 3 key factors…
1) Robust enough to last for many seasons.
Over the course of its lifetime, a good plastic picking tray will be durable enough to give many years’ service, including many thousands of trips – replacing the use of many tonnes of single-use crates made from other materials, such as waxed cardboard.
2) Lightweight and easy to handle.
As well as being strong, a good picking crate must also be lightweight. Days are long and exhausting on a fruit farm during the summer harvest, with temperatures regularly exceeding 30oC under poly tunnels; and with ambitious quotas put upon the pickers, it is imperative the trays are light, comfortable to hold, and easy to lift and manoeuvre at speed.
3) Protection and perforation!
In order for berries to arrive to the consumer in their best condition, a good picking crate will protect the fruit against the 2 main enemies of berry freshness: bruising and overheating. A crate must have room enough internally for 10 punnets of berries, and enough internal height to prevent crushing of the fruit when the next tray is placed above. They must also be stable and not susceptible to mis-stacking or collapse on the pallet. A good picking crate must also have as much perforation in them as possible to allow the flow of cold air within storage chillers, to cool down the berries as quickly as possible from the heat of the field from which they’ve just been picked.
Well, we’re pleased to report that Inka have hit an absolute smash in these areas with their winning PVBI6412-00 Mk2. Weighing in at just 1.1 Kg, with 4 comfortable hand holes, generous internal dimensions, copious perforation, and stable “fool-proof” stacking-system, the crate quite simply has served up an ace for strawberry growers all over the UK.
“New Trays, please!”
Unlike traditional picking crates which simply stack on top of each other, taking up a lot of space whether full or empty, the ingenious design of the new PVBI6412-00 Mk2, with its 2 colour design, presents a huge step forward in crate technology, allowing both stacking and nesting with the other crates depending on whether the 2 colours align or alternate. This means a saving of 50% space to store the picking crates over the winter between seasons, as well as getting twice the number of crates out to the field for picking on a truck – saving a lot of time, and also very beneficial during a fuel crisis!
Moreover, a happy bonus benefit of the stack & nest design is that the crates can easily function as both a taller crate for larger berries and stone fruit (i.e. strawberries and cherries), as well as a shallow crate for smaller softer berries (i.e. raspberries and blueberries), so for fruit farms with multiple fruit crops this crate can function perfectly as a multi-purpose solution!
So, the next time you’re served some British strawberries (or raspberries, cherries or blueberries!), perhaps whilst you’re watching the tennis this week, there is a very real possibility that those fruits you’re enjoying began their journey to you in one of our revolutionary new trays!… Game, set and match!