Consumer bags continue to be a growing trend for onions from the Idaho and Eastern Oregon region.
“We’ve been doing more with the retail segment in our business, and we’re excited about that,” said Jon Watson, president of J.C. Watson Co., Parma, Idaho.
Watson said new equipment allows the company to pack whatever size bag is needed, but that 2-pound, 3-pound, 5-pound, and 10-pound bags are the most popular.
Chris Woo, sales manager for Ontario, Ore.-based Murakami Produce, which packs onions for Potandon Produce, Idaho Falls, Idaho, said the company has three bagging machines to handle a variety of bag sizes.
“Retailers like the two or three pounders, but they are taking the 10-pound bags, too,” Woo said.
Of the bagging trends, onions are divided by size for each particular bag size.
“The 10-pound bag uses jumbos, while the twos, threes and fives generally take medium-sized onions,” Woo said.
Demand for bagged onions rises and falls depending on the size of onion deals farther east in the U.S., said Kay Riley, general manager of Snake River Produce Inc., Nyssa, Ore.
“If they have a smaller crop, we have more demand for bags, and if they have big crop, our demand goes down, simply because bagged onions is really what they do most,” he said.
Of those bags, some companies have seen increased interest for private-labels.
“We’re certainly involved with more customer labels now, which is a change from using our own labels. It seems like those private labels are the trend,” Riley said.
The trend isn’t limited to retail.
“When the bags go to market, whether it be retail or foodservice, customers want their name on the bag for marketing purposes,” said Tiffany Cruickshank, sales and marketing assistant for Snake River. “They request packing sheds like ours and the others in our area utilize their private label packaging instead of Snake River Produce, or other packing shed specific, bags and cartons.”
Riley said various retailers and foodservice distributors want their own label on the bag for branding purposes, like Sysco Corp., Houston, for example.
“I think they like the notion of their own identity. We’re seeing more of an emphasis for that,” he said.
Private label bags are also used for foodservice, and Woo said that’s where he sees the biggest demand for the trend.
“We use our label or the Green Giant label for retail bags, but we do pack some private-label bags for foodservice,” he said.
Food safety concerns are another reason some companies want to use private-label bags.
“When you see a bag in your label, sometimes that will give you a comfort zone,” said John Vlahandreas, onion sales manager for Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC.
Vlahandreas said the company’s Wada brand and Dole bags do very well as well, for similar reasons.
Cartons are also still an item of discussion when comparing onion packing and shipping trends and shifts.
Shay Myers, general manager of Owyhee Produce, Nyssa, Ore., has experienced more customers asking for them.
“We’re seeing a 5-10% increase on cartons. It’s a consistently growing trend for us,” he said.
Customers want them, even though they are more expensive, he said.
“It’s more labor intensive for us, and there is more expense to the customers, maybe $1.35 or $1.30 instead of a bag that might be 25 cents, but they want them anyway,” Myers said.
Not all growers and shippers have embraced them. Other companies haven’t seen as much interest.
“They certainly have their benefits, but it is also very expensive, so that trend hasn’t really taken off. I think it may be as mature as it gets for us, for the time being at least, Riley said.