A new consumer package is on the cherry scene this season.
The traditional poly bag has been the package of choice for several years, and some supermarket chains offer clamshell containers. However, this year an increasing number of retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., will switch to the pouch or gusset bag similar to that used by some table grape shippers.
The high-graphic bag will allow consumers to spot cherries from a distance and could lead to more impulse purchases, said Paul Poutre, general manager at Delta Packing Co. of Lodi Inc., Lodi, Calif.
Images on the bags will be sharper than before, he said, and there will be space for recipes or room for a grower to tell his story.
“Some major retailers are asking for it,” Poutre said. “It’s definitely a trend for 2013 — and probably going forward.”
Delta Packing will offer 1- to 2-pound random-weight pouch bags as well as some fixed-weight packages.
Some machines had to be converted to pack the bags, but Poutre expects most cherry grower-shippers to offer the new package to accommodate their retail customers.
The table grape industry has had some success with pouch bags, and packers of other commodities, including chili peppers, also have been using it, he said.
“That will be a new pack for us,” said Bruce Hesse, general manager at Farmington Fresh Sales LLC, Stockton, Calif.
The company did not have to add equipment to pack the bags.
“We had to spend a lot of money on bags, though,” Hesse said.
The firm also packs volume-fill packages, clamshells and traditional poly bags.
Bags will continue to account for the vast majority of cherry packages, but Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Stemilt Growers LLC, Wenatchee, Wash., which has a large California cherry program, said the company is packing more clamshell containers than ever.
Club stores typically buy the 3- and 4-pound clamshells, while mainstream supermarket chains often request 2- and 3-pounders.
Pepperl said he expects to see an improvement on all bags this season, including stronger material and heavier zippers.
The Flavor Tree Co. LLC, Hanford, Calif., packs just about every kind of cherry pack there is, said Maurice Cameron, president and global sales manager.
Like other suppliers, the company will provide certain customers with pouch bags, which he said are made from a thicker material than the previous bags and provide a better platform for graphic images.
It also allows grapes to be merchandised standing up rather than lying down.
The company recently added packing equipment and now can pack any pack style at any time, he said.
About 22% of the cherries that Morada Produce Co, Linden, Calif., packs are in clamshell containers, said Larelle Miller, saleswoman. Most of those were destined for club stores.
“Club stores have always taken clamshells,” she said.
Some international buyers also ask for smaller clamshell containers, she said.
At Delta Packing, Poutre said he, too, has received requests for clamshells for export markets — Korea and Japan in particular.
Stemilt still packs some cherries in what once was a standard container for cherries — wooden boxes, Pepperl said.
Though the pack now is a novelty item sold as gift boxes, not the 16-pounders that once were shipped to retailers.