Chilean blueberry exports to the U.S. continue to rise, and importers seek bigger packs to help move all that new volume.
Nolan Quinn, berry category director, The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, said the company will ship more product in bigger packs in 2012-13.
And it’s not just club stores that are asking for more big packs, he said.
“We hope to do more 6-ouncers than 4.4,” he said. “The trend is toward larger. A lot more 18-ouncers are being taken by conventional retailers.”
Teddy Koukoulis, director of blueberry operations for Wish Farms, Plant City, Fla., said Wish Farms expects to ship bigger packs in 2012-13.
“Last year we shipped 4.4. and 6 (ounce-sized containers) and pints, this year we’re going with more big packs, as well,” he said. “We have a club store, so we’ll be shipping 18-ounce clamshells.”
Wish Farms will need those big packs to help handle an expected 50% volume increase from Chile this season, Koukoulis said.
Brian Bocock, vice president of product management in the Grand Junction, Mich., office of Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC, expects that a higher percentage of the company’s Chilean blueberries sold in 2012-13 will be packed in larger packs — 18-ouncers for the most part but also some 2-pounders.
“It’s all about the volume equation of the consumer,” Bocock said. “We’ll definitely have more bigger-pack sales.”
California Giant Inc., Watsonville, Calif., also expects to ship more product in larger packs this year, said Cindy Jewell, the company’s marketing director.
“We’re really trying to push in that direction,” she said.
Because of limited volumes early in the season, the first batch of Chilean blueberries will, as usual, be packed in 4.4-ounce containers, Jewell said. High prices make anything larger unfeasible.
But California Giant will do everything it can to move to bigger packs as quickly as possible.
“Hopefully it will be very short,” she said of the 4.4-ouncer’s time in the marketplace. “There’s not really enough fruit in those containers.”
Andres Armstrong, general manager of the Chilean Blueberry Committee, Santiago, also expects more Chilean blueberries to be packed in bigger packs this season.
“We’ve seen the size of the packaging grow every year,” he said. “The pint is the most predominant size during the peak of the season, but bigger clamshells (are also) on the shelves.”