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Tropicana Products Inc. of Bradenton, using a rail-sea mode of transportation, is delivering citrus juices to the European market from the Port of New York in little more than a week after the product leaves the Florida base of operation.
The firm, which is the largest producer of citrus juices in the world, is now exporting about 70,000 shipping tons annually with 90% of the products going to Western Europe, according to officials.
Walter Loesche, international director for the company, said the balance of the export goes to Africa, South America, the Caribbean and even the Pacific, including Australia.
Tropicana’s “Great White Train” leaves Bradenton weekly with about a million gallons of citrus products bound for the firm’s plant in Kearney, New Jersey. It is the first company-owned unit food train of any size in the nation.
Robert Powers, director of transportation for the citrus operation, said when the present rail-sea method of transportation was instituted, “door-to-door” delivery time was cut by about two-thirds and breakage by about 98 per cent.
He said Tropicana has tried every method of shipping and there were attempts to use Florida ports as well as others on the lower east coast.
Powers added, however, there was neither sufficient shipping service nor adequate containers available to meet the company’s needs.
Use 7 container lines
The citrus firm uses seven container lines in New York and tries to divide its traffic equally among them, according to the transportation director.
Ed H. Price Jr., executive vice president of Tropicana, expressed satisfaction with the innovative overseas plan now being used and said there are no plans at this time to use Southern ports as they do not suit the firm’s operation as well.
A total of 160 refrigerated, air cushioned rail cars comprise the total fleet, and a minimum of 60 are sent north each week carrying computerized manifests detailing their contents.
Priority to exports
Unloading of the cars begins immediately upon arrival in Kearney and top priority is given to export products destined for scheduled outbound ships.
The train leaves Bradenton via Seaboard Coast Line Railroad and travels over the tracks of the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad before being delivered to Kearney by a Penn Central engine.
Tropicana first began exporting in 1966 and the first unit train to New York began its 36-hour trip in June 1970 carrying both domestic and export products at a 60-car unit train rate of $36,400 (round-trip). It’s enough to shave about 15% off the cost of alternating routing from Bradenton to Antwerp via Jacksonville, or 25% less than shipping via Norfolk.
Loesche said Tropicana introduced in Sweden last year a four plus one concentrate which makes a quart of orange juice, which is not being produced by any other company and is not yet being sold in the United States. He described it as a “product of the future.”
The firm’s evaporators are said to be the most modern in the world and Loesche said the plastic cans used for the new concentrate are the same size as the three plus one cans but the concentration is higher.
He stated that his firm is moving ahead “with considerable speed” to provide good distribution of grapefruit juice in Italy, where restrictions on such imports were removed last year.
Italy in May
Tropicana’s first shipment of the citrus juice to Italy in an especially designed package, never used before, was made in late May, Loesche stated.
He also commented that the company is attempting to obtain the support of the Florida Citrus Commission and the US Dept. of Agriculture for a marketing program, including advertising, in Italy.
This new market marks the 14th European country now being served citrus products by Tropicana, which through its subsidiaries makes its own plastic containers, bottles, caps and corrugated boxes.
The firm also ships in bulk, using 55-gallon drums made of double polyethylene.
At the Kearney terminal, there are 80 truck bays separated from the railroad track by a 30 to 60 foot wide platform, and on average days 19 to 21 box cars are off-loaded and dispatched to up to 70 domestic and export trailers and containers.
12 empties always
The steamship lines maintain at least 12 empty containers at the Kearney distribution center at all times.
Built in 1970, the northern terminal is served by a mile of railroad track leading to the 1,000 foot terminal shed which has seven lengths of track inside. The plant covers seven acres.
Powers said the company’s train and the steamship companies serving the New York port provide an “ideal transportation system” for Tropicana.
He cited the adequate containers and “an abundance of regular dependable service,” as well as the economics involved, but added there is nothing with which to compare the rates.
“We’re involved with a food product and the service requirements are different than those of general commodities,” said Powers.
Trooicana, in 1970. was awarded the Presidential “E” for excellence in export.
In Bradenton, the citrus firm’s operation is spread over 180 acres where 2,000 persons are employed and 800 trucks are used to transport citrus to the plant for processing.
Fort Pierce plant
In early June, Tronicana’s president, Anthony T. Rossi, announced plans to build a processing plant on 130 acres just outside the city of Fort Pierce, Florida.
The site is in an industrial park area immediately west of the Sunshine State Parkway and north of the Glades Cut Off Road.
Rossi said it will in no way affect the Bradenton operation, and described the new plant as a “logical expansion” of the firm’s operation since a large volume of fruit from the Fort Pierce area is already being used by Tropicana.
He expressed hope that the new plant will be in operation by the end of the year, and said it will produce both frozen concentrate citrus juices and pure chilled juice. Between 100 and 150 persons will be employed at the outset.