Citrus shoppers pick up more consumer packs

10/06/2009 11:44:09 AM
Tom Burfield

Consumer packs of citrus have become a favorite packaging choice for consumers looking for a bargain and for retailers looking to sell more fruit.

SunWest Fruit Co. Inc., Parlier, Calif., always has packed a lot of bags, but sales manager Doug Sankey thinks they will only increase in popularity as shoppers tighten their purse strings and try harder to make every dollar count.

Most retailers are likely to sell bags of Choice Grade fruit, which can help them offer an attractive price point to consumers while garnering a larger ring at the cash register for the supermarket, he said.

SunWest is on track to complying with the Produce Marketing Association’s target dates for package coding, Sankey said. The company already is Global Trade Item Number DataBar compliant and is working toward case coding goals.

Orange Cove, Calif.-based Mulholland Citrus, which ships easy-peel mandarins, puts up 98% of its product in consumer packs, said Fred Berry, director of marketing. Of those consumer packs, up to 70% are in bags.

“Consumer packs are a better value for consumers,” he said. “That’s where a lot of our growth has been.”

Ideally, shoppers will buy more fruit when it is value priced in a consumer pack as opposed to being sold in bulk.

Mulholland Citrus packs a lot of 2- and 3-pound bags which, even when they’re sold at the same per pound price as a 5-pound carton, enable retailers to offer a more attractive price point.

For example, a consumer may be more likely to buy a 3-pound package for $4.99 than a 5-pound pack at $7.99, he said.

The 3-pound bag is the firm’s most popular pack.

Custom packaging is common at Sunkist Growers Inc., Sherman Oaks, Calif., said Roy Bell, general manager at Cal Citrus Packing Co., Lindsay, Calif.

Cal Citrus became affiliated with Sunkist last year, and that was one thing that changed at the packinghouse.

“We do more customer-specific packaging now,” he said. “Sunkist puts more effort into helping retailers market than (independent growers) do.”

Sunkist is very much in tune with customer-specific labeling, coupon labeling and offering customized master containers and even reusable plastic containers, he said.

Bags are a popular package for organic citrus, too, said Scott Mabs, director of marketing for Homegrown Organic Farms, Strathmore, Calif.

Last year, the company received extensive interest in its 2-pound bags of easy-peel varieties, and for the first time this year, the company will offer a bag – most likely a 4-pounder – for cara cara oranges, he said.

“(Bags are) a good way to move smaller fruit and give consumers value,” Mabs said.

Bags are effective because they can offer a low price point, and they offer attractive merchandising opportunities, he said.

Bakersfield, Calif.-based Sun World International Inc. offers a variety of bags for its citrus program, said category manager Gene Coughlin. Many conventional supermarkets offer 2-pound bags of Choice Grade citrus, while some club stores sell 5-pound bags of Fancy Grade product, he said. The company also offers RPCs.

You can get just about every bag configuration there is from Crown Jewels Marketing & Distribution LLC, Fresno, Calif., said partner Atomic Torosian.

The company offer 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-, 8- and 10-pounders, and that’s a good thing because they help move more volume, Torosian said.

Despite the variety of packaging the company offers, packing in so many different formats does not slow down the packing operation, he said.

But the extensive variety of packaging choices the industry offers may not be the optimum situation, said Joel Nelsen, president of Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.

There was a time when packers offered uniform packages of basically 8-pound bags and 40-pound cartons, he said.

Today’s extensive selection of packaging options can be a major cost to shippers who must manufacture and inventory them, and uniformity of packages has all but disappeared, he said, creating challenges at shipping point.



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