Bags — whether random fill, 2 pounds or 2½ pounds — still rank as the most popular for domestic cherry sales.
Clamshells are a distant second, relegated to mostly 3- and 4-pound sizes for club stores and 1-pound sizes for delicate rainier cherries.
But a small group of grower-shippers are promoting other containers, including a FloWrap punnet, a new shaped clamshell and a stand-up pouch.
During the past few years, Stemilt Growers LLC, Wenatchee, Wash., has slowly increased its punnet line-up and this year will offer 1- and 2-pound punnets for organic and conventional dark sweets and 1-pound for conventional rainiers, said Roger Pepperl, marketing director.
“We have a handful of customers who want the punnet,” he said.
Stemilt’s research and development department compared cherry quality and shelf life when cherries were stored in punnets covered with FloWrap, clamshells and bags.
“Punnets outscored both of them,” he said.
The clear containers resemble clamshells without the lid. Clear, micro-perforated FloWrap transmission film seals the punnet top but allows the cherries to breathe. It also controls the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide from inside and outside container.
The result is reduced cherry dehydration, and stems remain greener longer.
Chelan Fresh Marketing Inc. has a different twist on the punnet. The Chelan, Wash.-based grower-shipper offers 1-pound punnets of dark sweets that are overwrapped with breathable Flow Fresh material, much like cookies are packaged, said Mac Riggan, vice president of marketing.
The punnet is available in select markets and is designed for higher-end retailers, he said.
The Flow Fresh material creates a microatmosphere within the punnet that extends fruit shelf life and provides a truly sealed package for food safety, Riggan said.
“And you’re able to put a real premium, large-sized cherry in it at a reasonable price point,” Riggan said.
New pouch from Domex
Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, will test market a high-graphics stand-up pouch as well as a new shaped clamshell for its proprietary Orondo Ruby cherries this season.
“We want to call out the fact that this is a different cherry,” said Loren Queen, marketing and communications manager.
Orondo Ruby, with red skin and yellow flesh, has high acids like a dark sweet cherry but high brix like a rainier, he said.
This year also will see a larger rollout of the specialty cherry.
In selected markets, Superfresh Growers will compare sales of the specialty cherry in pouches or new shaped clamshell to standard square 1-pound clamshells.
The idea is to differentiate the Orondo Ruby from other cherries and identify it as a premium product, said Howard Nager, vice president of marketing.
“It’s something that’s going to be higher priced than the rainier, but the challenge we face is the educational process.”
Superfresh Growers will work to conduct sampling with select retailers willing to make the extra effort to educate consumers about the new variety.
“We’re not looking for somebody who takes it, puts it on the shelf and walks away,” he said.
As part of that effort, Superfresh Growers will include point-of-sale materials in every box.
Although it’s an added expense, Nager said going this route gives the POS materials a better chance of being displayed beside the cherry.
“If it doesn’t make it out, it doesn’t matter how much you spend,” he said.