Sainsbury is the first to snap up a returnable crate for the transportation of loose mushrooms that is claimed to lower supply chain costs, as well as improve storage capacity and produce protection.

Hays Asset Control Solutions developed the returnable pool system with Sainsbury. The PP crate has completed an eight-week trial and is now being rolled out to all of the supermarket’s mushroom suppliers.

As part of the deal Sainsbury will rent a pool of loose mushroom crates from Hays ACS. After each use the trays are returned to one of Hays’ washing units for cleaning. They are then transferred to Sainsbury’s regional distribution centres where they are filled and delivered to its stores nationwide.

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 life-cycle 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 need to decant 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 considering ex-tending the crate’s use to delicate exotic fruit. Hays is in discussion with other major retailers over the development of more crate pools says marketing manager Steven Fox.