More shippers packing cherries in zippered bags

04/27/2012 02:34:00 PM
Mike Sherry

The sealable cherry bag is evolving.

Shippers are increasingly moving from the press-to-close catch-weight bags to zipper locks.

On cherries, “We are 100% zippers now — we have been for a couple years,” said Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash.

Decreased manufacturing costs are a big reason for the trend, he said. Zipper lock bags used to cost about a nickel more per bag to produce than the press-to-close bag, but that difference is now down to about a penny.

Pepperl also said the zipper lock bags are better for consumers who might be spending in the range of $9 for a 2-pound-plus catch-weight bag of cherries. Consumers “deserve to have that,” he said of a sealable bag.

Zipper lock bags also reduce waste and guard against slip-and-fall accidents in stores, said Joan Tabak, sales manager for Roland Marketing, Fridley, Minn. A closed bag can keep the cherries from falling on to the floor of the store, she explained.

In relation to clamshells, Tabak said, catch-weight bags are also easier to pack.

“With catch-weight bags,” she said, “they literally come out on a machine, the blower blows the bag open, and the machine knows to put 2 pounds, 2 and a quarter pounds, whatever, and it’s taken out there and put in a box.”

With clamshells, workers need to shuffle the cherries to guard against crushing the cherries or smashing them along the edges of the package.

Pepperl estimated that roughly 70% of this year’s cherries will be shipped in zipper lock bags.

But clamshells are continuing their rise in popularity, even though Pepperl said that a clamshell can cost about a dime more to produce than a zipper-lock bag.

Shippers and retailers have said that cherries sell in just about any packaging, reporting in some cases that consumers have even purchased 11-pound cartons. In general, industry experts said that consumers consider clamshells to be both higher cost and higher quality.

Meanwhile, the pressure is on retailers to keep up with big-box stores by offering 3-pound and 4-pound clamshells.

On the retail end, Pepperl said, clamshells are easier to display because workers can quickly put them out in the store with less fear of damaging the fruit.

And whereas the clamshells are becoming more prevalent among everyday retailers, Tabak said, they also remain identifiable with higher-end stores that have customers that will pay top dollar for large fruit.

If they can get an eight-row cherry, she said, they will take it.

“They want the biggest and best fruit out there,” Tabak said.



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