Larger clamshells continue to gain in popularity at club stores and traditional retailers, Argentine blueberry growers and shippers say.
“The packaging trends are expected to continue similar to previous year, but with more ‘bigger’ and ‘clubs packs’ offered to give continuity in promotions that started in the U.S. and Argentina and continue after the volume of Chile,” Nader Musleh, general manager for California Giant, Watsonville, said in an e-mail.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in demand for those larger packs, either the 18- or 24-ounce size,” said Jim Roberts, vice president of sales for Naturipe Farms LLC, Naples, Fla.
Roberts said his company has seen demand for larger packs increase by nearly 50%.
Still, he admits there are challenges with these larger sizes, especially when shipping the product by air, which has higher freight charges.
“When you are talking about a larger pack, the cost to fly it here can be $10 a case,” he said.
Teddy Koukoulis, director of blueberry operations for Wish Farms, Plant City, Fla., agrees that the transportation costs sometimes limit the sizes offered.
“When you ship by air, you are still paying for 1,000 kilos and the difference is on retailers’ side. If you are packing a smaller pack, you get 192 cases on a pallet, while packing pints only gets 144. Now the quantity is less even though the pounds are the same,” he said.
Still, he expects blueberry consumers to be willing to pay slightly higher prices to get the product they want.
“Blueberry buyers are typically a loyal customer,” he said.
Roberts also has seen an increase in the willingness of retailers and consumers to purchase a $6.99 or $7.99 pack of blueberries.
“It’s very exciting if we can increase demand on those larger sizes of packs,” he said.
He is optimistic about what the demand for larger pack sizes will do for the demand of Argentina’s blueberries.
Of course, supply, along with demand, affects the pack sizes.
Eric Crawford, president of Fresh Results LLC, Sunrise, Fla., says he would like to be able to pack a more consistent size throughout the season, but supply doesn’t always allow that.
“Prices vary dramatically from beginning to end of the season, and in order to give an acceptable retail price point we have a smaller pack at the beginning to accommodate a higher price per blueberry,” Crawford said.
“Because of that, you’ll see 4.4-ounce size, then a 6-ounce pack within a couple weeks. You can see pints in November,” Koukoulis said.
“If we had pints at the beginning of the season, the price just wouldn’t be acceptable to the shopper, because the supply is less and the price is higher,” Crawford said. “At the cost of blueberries goes down, we can put them in bigger packages.”
Crawford has seen retail demanding more of these larger packages.
“Conventional retailers are asking for what we consider to be club packs. They want the larger size so long as they can do it at a price point low enough for the shopper,” he said.
The growth of the industry has also supported the demand for these larger packs.
“I think the 18-ounce is gaining in popularity because of the growth in production,” said Tom Richardson, general manager for The Giumarra Cos., Wenatchee, Wash.
“The industry is able to sell larger pack types at more affordable levels than they were 10 years ago when supplies just didn’t warrant it.”