A returnable crate for the transportation of loose mushrooms is claimed to be lowering supply-chain costs at Sainsbury, along with providing improved storage capacity and produce protection.

Hays Asset Control Solutions developed the returnable pool system over 18 months, to be hired from Sainsbury’ mushroom growers. The tough PP crate has completed an eight-week trial and is now being rolled out to all of the company’s mushroom suppliers.

The 3kg crate measuring 400x300x135mm is smaller than conventional single-trip mushroom crates to offer better protection. It is also claimed to be easier to stack and more stable during transport.

Hays’ crate has a seven-year lifecycle, which has enabled Sainsbury to dispense with its previous single-trip high impact styrene loose mushroom trays. Supply-chain cost-savings are possible as the crate has a lower hire cost than single-trip crates, as well as doubling as a display crate, eliminating the costly and time consuming process of decanting produce.

Andrew Whitehead, Sainsbury project manager said: “The crate gives us far greater stacking precision – allowing an additional 39kg of mushrooms on every pallet – and is far more durable.”

Sainsbury is now considering using the crates for delicate exotic fruit. Hays is in discussion with other major retailers over the development of more crate pools, says marketing manager Steven Fox.