Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif., is enjoying success with the 1-pound and 2.2-pound sealed poly bags of asparagus it introduced to the market last year.
“It’s gaining momentum for us,” sales/category manager Cruz Carrera said.
The bags, made from a breathable membrane, can extend the shelf life up to 20 days after pack, depending on the time of the season, he said.
“You get quite a bit of life out of it,” Carrera said.
“There’s definitely going to be less shrink as long as you keep it at the proper temperature — that’s the key,” he said.
Regardless of whether the asparagus is bagged or in bunches, it should be kept at 40 degrees or lower, he said.
In addition to reducing shrink, Carrera said the packaging improves food safety because you don’t have customers directly handling the asparagus bunches.
The bags also mean retailers aren’t having to mess with water trays designed to keep the ends of the spears from drying out.
The 2.2-pound, or 1-kilo, size is designed for club stores, while the 1-pound bag is intended for general retailers.
The bag originally was designed for Wegmans Food Markets, but Mission Produce has since expanded it to all its retailers.
Despite their popularity, the bags still represent a small portion of the overall California asparagus volume that Mission Produce handles each year, Carrera said.
The company works with growers near Coalinga in the San Joaquin Valley as well as in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
“For us with the partners we have in Coalinga and Stockton, we’re expanding every year with more volume, and we’re looking to invest in those regions and expand,” he said.
Most of the California asparagus stays in the West because Carrera said retailers and customers like the larger sized spears compared to many imports.
“We can move it fairly easyv, for the most part,” he said.