Pouch bags are among the trends in packaging of Michigan apples.
Bruce Heeren, partner in Belding, Mich.-based All Fresh GPS, expects a fairly stable mix of bulk, poly, mesh, trays and Euro packs this season — with one notable exception.
“We may do a few pouch bags on SweeTangos,” he said.
A pouch bag should help distinguish SweeTango, Heeren said.
“It’s marketed as a premier apple, and the pouch will make it distinctive on the shelf. It won’t get lost in a pile of other apples.”
All Fresh hopes to roll out the SweeTango pouch bags on as wide a scale as possible, Heeren said.
Don Armock, president of Sparta, Mich.-based Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc., said his company will likely bag about half of its crop in poly and mesh bags, totes and other bags.
That percentage has been coming down in recent years, but bags are still crucial to Riveridge’s marketing, Armock said.
“It’s probably less than five or 10 years ago, but it’s still significant.”
One reason bagged is making up less of Riveridge’s overall volume is that some popular varieties, including Honeycrisps and jonagolds, tend to get marketed in bulk or in tray packs.
Riveridge’s new shipping cartons for 2014-15 feature the lime-green-leafed Riveridge logo and a red apple in the lower right corner.
The traymaster cartons have the same look on a premium white carton and a quick-response code linking to the company’s website.
“We need to be driven by the consumer,” Armock said of the new packs. “There’s a whole generation coming up that doesn’t have the same cooking experience as older generations. Some of our new packs are oriented toward making that easier.”
The packs feature easy cooking and preparation instructions, and the QR codes link to YouTube videos with snacking tips and showing consumers how to make an apple pie, among other things, Armock said.
“We’re trying to take more of a marketing approach” with some of the new packs, he said.
A retail apple container that can be converted into an apple pie dish, introduced by Riveridge in 2013, is back in bigger volumes for its sophomore year, Armock said.
By design, Riveridge only introduced the pie pack to a few customers last season as it worked out the kinks on how to market such a different product.
“We had to learn how to do it,” Armock said.
By most accounts, customers thought they did just fine.
“The customers we went with had good sell-through on it.”
Customers who wanted the pack last year but couldn’t get it because of limited supplies should have better luck in 2014-15, Armock said.
Barry Winkel, general manager of Greg Orchards & Produce Inc., Benton Harbor, Mich., said that toward the beginning of the season is when the company gets the most demand for tote bags, mesh bags and other specialty packs.
After that, it’s back to the staple poly bags and trays for the balance of the season, he said.
“We do a lot of trays. It seems like trays are becoming more popular.”
In poly bags, Greg Orchards leans toward 3-pounders for smaller fruit and 5-pounders for bigger apples, Winkel said.
Totes will be popular at the beginning of the season for Sparta-based Jack Brown Produce Inc., said John Schaefer, the company’s president.
“They tend to fall off after harvest,” he said.
Jack Brown has updated the graphics on its Apple Ridge-branded corrugated containers for this season, Schaefer said.
“It’s a crisper, fresher look,” he said. “Basically we’re just refreshing it.”