WATSONVILLE, Calif. — Larger clamshell packs that used to be sold mostly at club stores are slowly migrating onto the shelves of conventional retail produce departments.
But don’t look for the smaller 1-pound packages to disappear in the near future.
Courtesy Well-PictOne-pound clamshells for strawberries are still popular, but the two-pound strawberry clamshell is growing in popularity.They still accounted for the bulk of strawberry sales during a 52-week period, ending Dec. 29, 2013, according to figures from the Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission.
During that period, 1-pound packages of conventional berries represented 70% of sales, but that was a decline of 2.2% from 2012. The 2-pound package, on the other hand, accounted for 18% of sales, up 10.1% from the same period in 2012.
“The 2-pound is really gaining share across the nation,” said Chris Christian, vice president of marketing. “But the 1-pound is still the most popular. Some retailers go to the 3-pound, but not that extensively. And the 4-pound, which used to be kind of a preferred pack, has been going away.”
Size preference did vary among regions, according to commission figures.
The 1-pound package represented 84.3% of category dollar sales of conventionally grown strawberries in the Southeast but only 59.6% in the Plains region.
The 2-pound pack, on the other hand, accounted for 29% of Plains category sales, the highest in the nation, but only 11% in the Southeast.
Louis Ivanovich, a partner in Watsonville-based West Lake Fresh, said he’s noticed the trend toward larger packaging, too.
“The 2-pounders are definitely picking up steam,” he said. ”Sometimes they’ll pump it up to a 3- or 4-pound offering. The (retailers) are trying to offer something that will compete with the club store phenomenon.”
Ivanovich said 2-pounds or larger clamshells also provide a visually more appealing product — particularly early in the season when berries tend to be larger — than 1-pound containers.
“Sometimes to get a pound of fruit in the clamshell, there’s more mechanical damage,” he said. Workers also may squeeze the larger berries into the smaller container to meet the 1-pound minimum weight.
The larger clamshells allow the workers to pack the berries a “little more gracefully,” Ivanovich said.
California Giant Berry Farms Inc., Watsonville, also has seen the trend.
“We’re definitely seeing the 2-pound clamshell offering increasing with mainstream retailers,” said Cindy Jewell, director of marketing.
Charlie Staka, director of sales for Watsonville-based CBS Farms, said a larger-sized clamshell tends to complement a 1-pound in terms of sales.
“If retailers have a 2-pound and a 1-pound, they’ll sell more fruit than if they just have a 1-pound on the shelf,” he said.