“Retailers are demanding the pouch bag with a handle. I think everybody will be packing in those,” said Jared Lane, vice president of marketing for Bakersfield, Calif.-based Stevco Inc.
Others agree the new bag is going to be the main option on store shelves this year.
Fruit Royale Inc., Delano, Calif., will ship all its grapes in handle bags this year, according to managing partner Louie Galvan.
“It seems more people want these bags than not,” he said.
There are numerous advantages to this style.
Marc Serpa, director of domestic grapes for The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, said the bags display well and are easy to handle.
“Our customers have commented that the convenience and appealing displays of the handle bags have increased sales for the grape category in recent years,” he said in an e-mail.
Other benefits include increased visual appeal of the fruit.
“It displays the grapes with higher clarity and makes them appear fresher and prettier to the eye that the other bags were able to do,” Lane said.
In addition to having a better view of the fruit, new bags also have more visual appeal in terms of design capabilities.
“The bags are more appealing with regard to the brilliant high quality graphics. It’s just better to look at overall,” Millburn said.
“We are seeing the industry heavily adopt the high graphic handle bag as the bag of choice. The graphics catch the eye of the consumer, the handle urges takeaway and the film is clearer than the standard polypropylene bag,” said
Natalie Erlendson, marketing manager for Sun World International LLC, Bakersfield, Calif.
In addition, the new bags offer convenience to shoppers because they are easy to pick up off the shelf with one hand.
“The bags are a more cutting edge design that’s easier for shoppers to grab and go,” said Rene Millburn, Missouri-based public relations director for King Fresh Produce LLC, Dinuba, Calif.
The pouch bag can be more effort to pack than other bag styles, according to Steve Monroe, sales, Monroe & Sons Produce Distributors, Bakersfield, Calif.
Of course, when considering the other packaging alternative, the clamshell, pouch bags are easier to pack.
“The hope is that customers would use a pouch bag instead of a clam, so in that case it actually saves time,” Monroe said.
He said most pouch bags are designed to be able to attach to the packing stand rack that growers have used for harvesting grapes in bags for the past several years.
“If growers can use the same racks at the tables, it’s easier than clamshells,” he said.
The new bags do bring a few other kinds of challenges, though.
John Pandol, special projects director for Delano, Calif.-based Pandol Bros. Inc., said ordering the new style of bags can be a problem.
“You have to practically be a polymer chemist to order bags these days,” he said.
In addition, there are still some trial and error issues to be resolved.
“There’s not even standard terminology for the bag, and certainly not standard manufacturing procedures. People are still trying to discern what the best bag to use for grapes really is,” Pandol said.
Still, companies are already moving forward, despite the remaining unknowns.
Pandol said their company only ordered the new style of bag this year, although they do have some existing stock to use up.
“We’re not ordering any of the old polyethylene style bags. All the new purchases will be the polypropylene-type bags,” he said.
Ongoing research leads some shippers to believe bags haven’t finished evolving.
For instance, different lighting can impact the way fruit can be seen by consumers in the store.
“Depending on the different types of lights, there’s a different view to the consumer, so we’re beginning to understand how that impacts sales and how we need to modify packaging. I think we’ll see more bag styles before we’re done with all that,” Pandol said.