Bigger, leaner packages provide consumers with great value while saving growers money on freight costs.

“Retailers are looking for larger packs of berries as they look for ways to create more value for consumers,” said Robert Verloop, executive vice president of marketing for Naturipe Farms LLC, Naples, Fla.

Dan Crowley, sales manager of Well-Pict Inc., Watsonville, said outrageous gas prices two summers ago spurred the company to redesign its clamshells and add a 2-pound package.

“We always hit a weight limit before we hit a cube limit, so we’ve redesigned the package to hit the weight capacity before we cube out,” Crowley said.

As a result, he said, the company now gets 35% more packages on a truck, and consumers love the bigger size.

While many grower-shippers are moving to 4-pound clamshells for strawberries, Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce, San Diego, scaled back after completing a category analysis for a chain-store customer.

“They found, especially with the economy drop-off, that four pounds of berries was too much, and consumers said they were throwing away the last pound of fruit,” said Mark Munger, vice president of marketing.

A 2-pounder didn’t work because the retailer likes to sell in multiples, he said, offering two 1-pounders for a certain price or offering a buy one, get one free.

“Suddenly,” said Munger, “the 3-pound size made sense. It’s our first year out there, and it’s proving to be a good economy size. From an efficiency standpoint you don’t want another pack, but if it’s one consumers are responding to, you can’t complain.”

Naturipe Farms introduced its own 3-pound strawberry clamshell — once a club store exclusive — late last year, and 12-ounce raspberry and blackberry containers this year, said Verloop, who called the new packs a tremendous selling opportunity for traditional retailers.

Doug Perkins, managing director of HBF international LLC, Sheridan, Ore., which packs 2-pound containers of blueberries, said the larger packs are great as long as the quality’s there.

“People are willing to pay for these larger packs as (long as) there’s a good quality berry inside,” Perkins said.

It can’t just be about the costs, it’s got to be about what consumers want.”