Simply the Zest — Ventura Pacific Modernizes Marking with Matthews MPERIA® Platform

How Ventura Pacific uses a suite of integrated Matthews printers and the MPERIA® platform to modernize their marking capabilities, reduce costs, improve up time, and gain invaluable peace of mind.

Industry: Produce

Application: Automated Marking System, Product Traceability

Products: MPERIA Controller, A Series Automatic Labeling Machine, L Series (Thermal Inkjet), T Series (Piezo Inkjet)


For 80 years, Ventura Pacific has been a premier grower and packer of California lemons. Headquartered in Oxnard, California, this thriving cooperative is also one of the largest lemon producers for Sunkist — processing five million cartons each year. Ventura has always been an innovator. Back in the 1950s, the company pioneered the packing of lemons in cardboard cartons of 38-pound increments, a vast improvement over the hard-to-handle 80-pound wooden crates that were the standard.

An early adopter of mechanized automations in several areas of their production process, Ventura came to Matthews Marking to help them modernize their marking and labeling capabilities. The Matthews solution delivered cost savings, improved up time, greater operational efficiency, and peace of mind.

The Challenge

In a market as competitive as the lemon industry, every advantage is an important one. Over the years, Ventura Pacific had adopted mechanized fruit receiving and cleaning processes along with electronic technologies to sort incoming lemons at dizzying speeds based on size, color, and quality.

These automations allow Ventura to utilize labor with high efficiency, but one area remained a challenge (and an opportunity): their labeling process. This is something the company wanted to address as they transitioned to a new facility.

At their old facility, Ventura had been using a traditional label applicator that applied preprinted stickers to each box. In theory, this was supposed to be a fool-proof method. In reality, sometimes the applicator failed to apply the sticker, sometimes stickers fell on the floor or got caught in boxes or on the conveyor, making a mess.

In addition, the stickers themselves were very expensive, and the inventory had to be constantly monitored and replaced frequently. Ventura had to employ a full-time employee dedicated to managing the labeling.

Initially, Ventura tried to troubleshoot these problems with the vendor, but even after making various adjustments, testing different hardware, and taking up the time of the maintenance and engineering departments, they were no closer to a viable solution. As Ventura made plans for their new facility, they decided it was time for a change.

The Solution

Ventura ended up implementing three different Matthews Marking solutions to improve efficiency and productivity in multiple parts of the production process.

“I wanted one company to do everything,” says Tony Atchley, Director of Engineering and Food Safety at Ventura. “I wanted the ultimate configuration to do everything under one roof in a future-proof facility that can expand indefinitely.”

To bring this vision to life, Ventura uses the following Matthews products:

+ Two A-Series automated print-and-apply systems – one to label the 1,000-pound “raw storage” bins that hold lemons after they’ve been washed and sorted, and another to label the smaller RPC totes that go to retailers.

+ Four L-Series (L12s) thermal inkjet printers to mark a barcode (license plate) on cartons. A Keyence vision camera then reads this barcode, and transmits the data to the MPERIA® controller.

+ Six L-Series (L1s) arranged in an array for marking up to 3” on the 45-pound cartons. These printers mark PTI/G10 information — based upon the scanned license plate value once the MPERIA® controller has matched it with data from a backend system.

6 L Series stitched together on conveyor.

+ One T-Series inkjet printer to mark cartons for export outside of the U.S. with non-English characters.

+ One MPERIA® automated marking system controller to drive the entire operation: one A-Series D43, four L-Series L12s, six L-Series L1s, one T-Series T100, and one Keyence vision camera.

MPERIA creating labels for Ventura Pacific

Ventura chose these Matthews Marking solutions for a variety of reasons, including:

Cost savings

Switching to a Matthews solution reduced costs in several areas, starting with reducing material expenses. “The material cost of the stickers was about $20,000 more a year than the material cost of ink,” says Tony. “So, right off the bat we saved $20,000 just in materials and that pretty much paid for the system.”

Tony also recognized savings related to reduced labor associated with changing out labels and managing constant maintenance. And there were hardware savings as well. “We were able to put in four of the Matthews L12s for the cost of one of the print-and-apply applicators we’d been using before,” says Tony. “So we substantially reduced our capital expense while still immediately solving all our production issues.”

Printed mark on Ventura Lemon box

Superior support and easy integration

After the difficulties they’d had trying to resolve quality issues with their previous vendor, Ventura especially appreciated Matthews’ easy integration and responsive support. “The Matthews solution just integrated with what we have in our facility,” says Tony. “We didn’t have to change what we do to make the system work.”

Ease of use and reliability

“There are a lot of moving parts in our facility, and we’re really busy,” says Tony. “What I like most is a set-it-and-forget-it solution I don’t have to worry about.” That’s just what the Matthews solution delivers — a high-quality print every time without the hassle. As Tony describes it: “No moving parts. Nothing to break. Nothing requiring maintenance. It just makes my life easier.”

The flexibility and ability to make changes on the fly

Agility is important in any production scenario, and Matthews makes it easy to adapt. “In traditional systems everything happens in the shadows,” says Tony. “If you want changes, you have to call a software engineer, open a support ticket, and then wait a couple days or a week to get an answer. But the Matthews system is more open source. It’s so much easier now that we can get to the inner workings, and have full control over the system.”

The versatility of the Matthews system is not only convenient, it saves money. With their original solution, Ventura had to employ one to two people to manually apply speciality stickers for export orders. The Matthews system can accommodate multiple print types. “I was able to easily program the Matthews system to automatically print not only a standard PTI or GTIN label, but also an export or chemical legend or anything else,” says Tony. “The
system is totally variable. I could use any label media from any company and it just works”

The Results

By implementing a full range of Matthews products across their production facility, Ventura was able to reduce material and labor costs, improve mark quality, increase uptime, and gain peace of mind. The solution delivered on its big-picture promises. “Overall our experience has been great,” says Tony. “You call sales or support, and they answer. The savings projection was dead on, and the system is easy to use and very cost effective.”

Matthews products also deliver on the day-to-day benefits that make a real difference to the Ventura team. “The biggest benefit of the Matthews system is the uptime,” says Tony. “I used to spend 20% of my time dealing with hardware errors and software errors, but with Matthews, that’s no longer an area of concern. Nothing has ever gone wrong with it. Nothing has ever failed. I haven’t had any negative experiences.”

Lemon boxes going down a conveyor.

About Ventura Pacific

For 80 years, Ventura Pacific has been a premier grower and packer of California lemons. Ventura Pacific began in 1942 in Montalvo, California. During the 1970s, the organization was purchased by growers and became the thriving cooperative it is today. Also during that time, Ventura Pacific began marketing their fruit through Sunkist and continues to do so today. Ventura Pacific members grow produce throughout California including in Ventura, Monterey, Riverside, and Tulare counties. Headquartered in Oxnard, California, the company operates out of two facilities: one in Oxnard totaling more than 220,000
square feet and a 70,000-foot storage facility in Montalvo.