(May 14, 9:38 a.m.) By processing their produce products in consumer-friendly packaging, Carolina growers are giving retailers different options and expanding their profit margin.

“Growers are staying on the cutting edge with packaging,” said Martin Eubanks, director of marketing for the Agricultural Services Division for the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, Columbia. “I’m seeing a lot going on with peaches and in the value-added vegetables.”

Fresh-cut fruit and vegetables in trays and diced squash, tomatoes and onions for product mixes are increasing in popularity, grower-shippers said. Eubanks said he is also seeing a lot of different packaging when it comes to value-added commodities such as peaches.

“Value-added product lines have increased each year over the past several years, and we fully expect that trend to continue,” Eubanks said. “Many of today’s busy shoppers are looking for convenience and are willing to pay for it. We are seeking ways to meet that demand in our overall product mix and offerings from South Carolina.”

South Carolina growers are selling their peaches in standard 25-pound boxes, single-layer tray packs, and 5-pound and six-count clamshells.

He also mentioned they have two-layer tray pack peaches, single-layer and standard 25-pound bulk fill.

“These specialty packs give retailers more options that they can make available to consumers,” Eubanks said. “Packaging trends evolve with demand by the trade and by consumers. Many have been introduced over the past several years and new product lines are coming out each year.”

North Carolina growers are also looking at new ways to package their commodities. Patterson Farm Inc., China Grove, N.C., plans to introduce a two-layer box for its tomatoes. Virginia Fork Produce Co. in Edenton, N.C. is not only selling its watermelons in bulk packages, but is also planning to package them four to a box.

“Some of the stores can’t afford tractor trailers,” said Leonard Small Jr., vice president of Virginia Fork Produce Co. “If they have just a few pallets at a time, they can keep their inventory fresh and keep it moving.”