Growers of Walla Walla sweet onions continue to see growth in the use of convenience bags.
Dan Borer, general manager of Walla Walla-based Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc., said that for the first time ever, the company is packing Walla Wallas in high-graphic convenience bags with recipes on them.
In the future, Keystone may also add nutritional information to the bags, Borer said.
The decision to add the bags was spurred by the growth in demand for convenience packs, and for one size in particular.
“We’re selling more in consumer packs every year, and the 3-pounder seems to be becoming the dominant pack,” Borer said.
In recent years, demand has been vacillating between 2-, 3- and 4-pounders, with 3-pounders taking the lead, though Keystone does offer Walla Wallas in all three sizes, Borer said.
The company also sells a fair amount of 10-pound club packs, he said.
Borer said more and more retailers are offering bagged Walla Wallas in addition to bulk, a decision which hasn’t resulted in cannibalization of sales from one SKU to the next.
“We’re happy to see it,” he said. “It means they’re utilizing the onions in different ways, which is great.”
Bryon Magnaghi, general manager for Walla Walla Gardeners’ Association Inc., Walla Walla, Wash., said the association has added a new wraparound labeling machine in time for the 2011 season.
“We’ll be able to do more consumer bags than in the past,” Magnaghi said. “Our older machine couldn’t handle the capacity.”
The association is seeing more and more demand for 2-, 3- and 5- pound bags, with demand for 2-pounders particularly strong, he said.
With the new machine, the association plans to continue packing the bulk of bags under its Gloria label, though it will be easier now to pack under other labels when customers ask for it, Magnaghi said.
Stefan Matheny, product development manager of Hermiston, Ore.-based River Point Farms LLC, said his company continues to see an increase in demand for convenience packs, particularly 5-pounders.
The majority of onions, however, still ship in 40-pound bulk boxes, Matheny said. River Point’s bulk Walla Wallas are individually stickered with G10 codes, he said.
Most stores still rely on the 40-pound bulk box as their packing option of choice for Walla Wallas, agreed Harry Hamada, manager of Walla Walla River Packing & Storage LLC, Walla Walla.
But demand for 3- and 5-pounders and other convenience bags is on the rise, Hamada said.