GMA Pallet Guidelines To Know For Food Industry Pallets

If you work in the food industry, you might have heard of a GMA Pallet. But unless you’re very familiar with pallets, chances are that you don’t know what it means or what it stands for. 

So what does it mean?

A GMA Pallet is a type of pallet that follows a standardized guideline set forth by the Grocery Manufacturers Association to enable product shipment between locations fast and easy in a way that is food safe. 

How Do Guidelines Help The Food Industry? 

The ability to transport goods quickly is a crucial factor to consider when you are dealing with food and beverages, which is why the guidelines are so important. Adhering to the GMA standard also means that not only can you transport your goods quicker, you are also able to do it in a more cost-effective way. 

By setting consistent weight, size, and efficiency standards, the GMA ensures that operations are sped up while maintaining pallet integrity every time. By knowing the measurements of each pallet, it is easier to:

  • calculate how many will fit into a particular container
  • how much weight the pallet can carry, and 
  • what type of machinery is most suitable for use with that type of pallet, thereby reducing the risk of machinery damage.

GMA Pallet Standards

There are six kinds of pallets that are currently recognized by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), but the most common one is the GMA pallet that is used widely in the North American Region. 

The true GMA pallet will always measure 48” x 40” and have seven top deck boards and five base boards.  The wood is typically a high-density hardwood, and the stringers will be 1 3/8“ thick, 3 1/2” tall, and 48” long. The entire guideline and specifications for the pallet can be found below:

1. The pallet must measure 48 inches by 40 inches. 

2. It must bear a load capacity of at least 2,500 pounds.

3. There must be a four-way forklift entry with two notches on the side of the pallet.

4. The base and top deck boards must be 5/8 inches thick. 

5. The pallet top must have two board ends (one on each end) measuring 5 1/2 inches by 40 inches, and in its center should be five boards measuring 3 1/2 inches by 40 inches.

6. The pallet bottom must have two board ends (one on each end) measuring 5 1/2 inches by 40 inches, and between the notches should be three boards measuring 3 1/2 inches by 40 inches.

New Pallet Variations

Some companies will either use recycled pallets or utilize new ones that deviate slightly from the GMA specifications to save on costs. However, these types of pallets are still considered and accepted as GMA Pallets. 

1. New Hardwood – This type of pallet is made with seven hardwood boards on top and five on the bottom. It also has the same footprint as a true GMA Pallet. However, instead of having 5/8” thick deck boards, these are built with deck boards that measure 9/16” thick. The thickness of the stringers has gone down from 1 3/8” to 1 1/14.” 

2. New Softwood – Because softwood is more easily sourced in the U.S. than hardwood, pallets made from these are equally popular. These feature 1.5” thick stringers and 11/16” thick deck boards. 

Recycled Pallet Grades

Used and recycled GMA Pallets are sorted into grades, depending on the condition of the boards and stringers. 

1. Grade #1 or A – These are recycled pallets in excellent condition because they have been used only a few times and kept well-maintained. In most cases, you cannot tell the difference between a new one and a grade #1 since the latter has not undergone any stringer repair and will only show very minimal discoloration. 

Some companies sort these into further subcategories such as Grade #1 and Premium Grade #1. The difference between these two is that the Premium version won’t have any painted or colored stringers and will be mostly used as a store display. The simple Grade #1 version, meanwhile, may have color-coded or painted stringers and minor cracks and wood blemishes. They are commonly used in the pharmaceutical and food industries.

2. Grade #2 or B – Grade #2 or B Pallets are far more extensively used than the Grade #1 ones. They will look more worn and show signs of discolorations. Their stringers will also have been repaired at least once. Like the Grade #1 Pallets, these are also subdivided into two categories: Premium and non-Premium.

The Premium Grade #2 Pallet will only have undergone one stringer repair (either a corrugated metal plate was used, or a companion stringer was attached to the damaged one). In contrast, the non-premium Grade #2 version will have multiple discolorations and two or more stringer repairs. 

For several companies, the Premium Grade #2 Pallet is a good compromise from getting a Grade #1 Pallet, which costs much more but which differs only a little from the Premium Grade #2.