WHO PAYS?

NEW ORLEANS -- The issue of just who pays for Price Look-Up codes surfaced at the McLean, Va.-based International Apple Institute's annual convention and business meeting here.It came up in a discussion that was part of an industrywide call for feedback on the overhaul of current PLUs."I'm asking how everyone is billing for PLUs," said Pamela Schwallier, sales manager for Great Lakes Fruit & Produce

NEW ORLEANS -- The issue of just who pays for Price Look-Up codes surfaced at the McLean, Va.-based International Apple Institute's annual convention and business meeting here.

It came up in a discussion that was part of an industrywide call for feedback on the overhaul of current PLUs.

"I'm asking how everyone is billing for PLUs," said Pamela Schwallier, sales manager for Great Lakes Fruit & Produce in Grand Rapids, Mich. "Is this something we simply have to absorb, as we did [the extra costs for] wax? Or is there something we can do to get the cost of putting PLU stickers on our apples back to us?"

Steve Lutz, president of the Washington Apple Commission in Wenatchee, Wash., replied that, "In my opinion, in the next four to five years, every single bulk apple sold in the United States is going to have a sticker on it.

"We have a very narrow window to implement a system where we get paid for putting stickers on apples," he said.

Lutz estimated that, by charging retailers a quarter per box for PLU codes, Washington apple growers will be reimbursed about $15 million this season.

Lutz also fired a shot at Sunkist, the giant citrus cooperative based in Sherman Oaks, Calif., which recently dropped a separate automatic surcharge for stickered fruit. "Sunkist has bailed. And I think it's unfortunate," he said.

In a public statement, Russell Hanlin, president of Sunkist, said the cooperative tried the separate surcharge without success for three months.

"It is estimated that only 40% to 50% of retailers in the United States are currently equipped to utilize PLU codes," Hanlin said. "The remaining half does not want to pay for them. Additionally, most wholesalers and food-service buyers do not use PLU codes."