Packaging is a weightier issue for produce retailers in California than in other states.
Grocers in the Golden State now have to account for tare weight in all sales. That is, they have to deduct the weight of the bag from a purchase.
For example, a customer purchasing a tote bag of bulk apples will pay for the apples and not the bag.
Stores have screens that access the cost based on the type of bag used.
"Whole Foods had to take our bags out of their produce department temporarily while they retrained all their checkers how to charge for them, but now we are back in business, given they have been using our compostable bags for some time and want to get out of plastic as much as possible in the produce department long term," said Kellee Harris, spokeswoman for Canby, Ore.-based bag manufacturer Package Containers Inc.
Before, consumers had been charged for the weight of bags, Harris said.
"In Southern California, government regulators were checking if consumers were being charged for the weight of the bag in addition to what product they were buying," she said.
The package cost made only a miniscule difference in the cost of the product, but regulators mandated the changes anyway, Harris said.
"They said you're going to have to revamp your scales to take off for the type of packaging that this bulk produce is in," she said.
Consumers at self-checkout stations will be asked to enter the type of packaging on a computer screen and will automatically deduct the cost of the bag, based on its calculated weight.
"That's what they had to do in all those stores," Harris said.
It's not an issue outside California, she added.
"It's been considered a convenience to provide the paper or plastic bag," she said.
The extra cost of a typical bag shouldn't be a major burden on retailers, said Ed Johnson, president of Lake Forest, Ill.-based Specialty Bags Inc.
"It's virtually insignificant on a 2-pound bag and won't make a difference," he said.
The issue should not touch produce shippers, said Roger Pepperl, marketing director with Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers LLC.
"That mostly applies to if you buy bulk apples, when you go to the checkout, it will ask what the package made out of, because it's trying to figure what the tare weight is, so it has no bearing on us," he said.