Packing and stacking apples

Apples are packed in all types of packaging. Crates, cartons, trays, bags and punnets are convenient containers for handling, transport and marketing. Careful packing is important when working with fresh produce, to avoid damages. The packaging is designed to protect the produce from mechanical damage, but is only effective when used correctly. When stacking the packages on a pallet, the risk of falling should be minimized. It must be done in such a way the packages provide each other stability. Completed pallets should be strapped well so that the contents cannot shift or fall.

Apples packed in a bag (for consumer). Photo by Infinity T29/

Packing the apple

Apples are packaged according to strict criteria. The uniformity in size and quality within each class is important for the market. Failure to remove overripe, misshapen, diseased or otherwise damaged apples creates problems in subsequent marketing.

Apples are susceptible to new damages such as bruises and skin punctures when not handled carefully during packaging and palletizing. These damages are not always immediately visible, but can lead to disappointments later in the chain and even to reclamations. Therefore, packaging of apples should be done according to the right procedures.

Packing attention points

  1. Manual inspection of apples at a conveyor belt. Photo by industryviews/

    Manual removal bad quality apples

    The sorting that takes place prior to packing should result in groups of apples of uniform size and quality. However, it cannot be expected that the sorting line performs 100% perfect. Therefore, the people on the packing line should always stay alert for apples that differ, which should be kept out of the packages. This certainly counts for apples with rot.
  2. Children in the orchard showing how you should not handle apples. Prevent throwing and dropping.  Photo by Star Stock/

    Prevent drops, punctures and bumps

    It is of high importance to place apples carefully into the package. Do not drop them, there should be no drop distance. On the other hand, never use force when packing the apples, as this can lead to bruises. Rough handling can also lead to punctures in the skin. An example is damage caused by the stem of a neighboring apple. Or damage caused by bumping the apple to the sharp edge of the packaging. If you accidently drop an apple on the floor, keep it out of the package.
  3. Overfull crate of apples. Photo by Terelyuk/

    Do not overfill packages

    Packages must not be overfilled. They should not be filled to such level that the next package, when stacking, touches or presses apples in the package beneath. Fill the package from bottom to top evenly over the entire surface. This also prevents rolling of the apples.
  4. Old weighing scale. Photo by alexkich/

    Calibrate weighing scales

    Packing is according to a prescribed (minimum) weight. Weighing scales are calibrated at least once a year. But calibration CHECKS must be done on at least once a day with calibration weights. If you have any doubt about the weight, or accidently hit the weighing scale hard, ask the person in charge to do an extra calibration check.

Stacking attention points

  1. Uncarefully stacked boxes. Photo by WFBR

    Stack packages carefully

    Dropping and dragging of packages should always be avoided. This would cause the fruits to bump against each other which can cause skin damages. Moreover, packages can get deformed and thus provide less protecting to the apples.
  2. Neat stacking of boxes. Photo by Aleksandar Malivuk/

    Stack packages neatly

    Place the first layer of packages accurately within the edges of the pallet. Packages must not overlap the pallet. When this happens, the risk on damage to the product or the packaging later in the supply chain is high. Neatly stacking also facilitates forklift work.
  3. Crates not well-aligned. Photo by WFBR

    Stack packages tightly

    Stack the packages straight on top of each other on the pallet, at an angle of 90 degrees with the pallets surface. If the weight is not evenly distributed, the lower boxes can deform in a later part of the chain. Also, stacks need to be tight against each other. In this way the ventilation holes in the packages connect well with each other. This is necessary to provide a good air circulation through the pallet load.
  4. Correctly strapped pallets. Photo by Aleksandar Malivuk/

    Strap pallets correctly

    Before transport with the forklift, completed pallets must be strapped well in such a way that the packages cannot shift or fall. Corner boards (carton) in combination with strap materials (plastic) are frequently used to stabilize pallets with cardboard boxes. All straps should be tight.
“It’s better to put 5 fewer apples in the box than 1 too many, as 1 apple sticking out, may result in a problem for many”
Marcel Staal, Wageningen Food & Biobased Research

Did you know that?

  1. A box with heavier apples looks less filled than a box with lighter apples.

    Apple varieties differ in their weight to volume ratio. Heavier apples fit easier in a certain box volume than lighter apples.
  2. There is a standard sizing for European wooden pallets

    A commonly used standard European wooden pallet is 120 cm x 100 cm (lxb). It can contain 5 crates of 60 cm x 40 cm (lxb) on one layer. A standard pallet of 120 cm x 80 cm can contain 8 crates of 40 cm x 30 cm (lxb) per layer.