Grape shippers packing more clamshells

06/23/2010 11:24:50 AM
Tom Burfield

Heavy demand from grocery retailers has prompted California table grape grower-shippers to pack more of their product in clamshells.

Scattaglia Growers & Shippers LLC, Traver, Calif., began offering clamshells when its biggest customer requested them, and now has become a strong player in clamshell packaging, said Dave Parker, marketing director.

“You name it, we can do it,” he said.

The company ships mostly eight-count and 10-count cartons of 2-pound clamshells and has experimented with 1-pounders, Parker said.

The Chuck Olsen Co., Visalia, Calif., also expects to ship more clamshells this season than last because of growing retail requests, said managing partner Chuck Olsen.

The company makes all of its varieties available in clamshells. The 10-count box of 2-pound packages is its most popular master pack for the containers.

Fresno, Calif.-based Crown Jewels Marketing & Distribution LLC plans to do more 2-, 3- and 4-pound bicolor and tricolor clamshells this season, said partner Atomic Torosian.

“We always try to put our premium quality in the clamshells,” he said.

The company’s clamshell business increases every year and now accounts for up to 15% of its table grape volume, Torosian said.

Some retailers offer clamshell containers as well as bags, he said. They price them differently and feature both on ad.
Visalia Produce Sales Inc. in Kingsburg, Calif., has packed mostly 2- and 4-pound clamshells in the past, but now is ramping up its volume of 3-pounders for certain retailers, said George Matoian, salesman.

The 3-pound container gives the illusion of a 4-pound package, but can be sold at a lower price point, Matoian said.

Clamshell volume increases as much as 10% annually at Fazio Marketing Inc., Fresno, said president Tony Fazio.

The company packs 2-, 3-, 4- and even 5-pound clamshells for traditional supermarkets as well as club stores, he said.

Most stores offer a combination of bags and clamshell containers.

“Each retailer has their own target markets and promotional programs geared to different customer bases,” Fazio said.

Cost of clamshells can vary by volume and size, but Fazio said they can be double the cost of packing in bags.

Mario Macias, owner and president of Mario Macias & Co., Bakersfield, Calif., said 1-, 2- and 4-pound clamshells are a growing part of the company’s business.

“A lot of different stores are jumping on these things,” he said.

Clamshells aren’t limited to club stores or major chains.

“Even small retailers are looking for clamshells,” he said.

Few stores offer clamshells exclusively, he added, but most offer at least some clamshells.

The company plans to offer bicolor and tricolor packs for the first time this year, with two colors of grapes available in 2-pound clamshells and three colors in 4-pound containers.

But not everyone is a clamshell fan.

Nick Dulcich, an owner and director of sales for Jakov P. Dulcich & Sons, Delano, Calif., said some regional chains don’t take the clamshells because they cost too much.

“We’re a premium shipper,” he said. “If we pack in that thing, we’ll have a $10 cost.”

To counter the higher cost, some shippers pack smaller, third-quality fruit in the containers so they can retail at a more favorable price, he said.

“It’s kind of a scam,” he said, adding that a large bunch of premium fruit likely would not fit in a clamshell container.
Dulcich said his company will pack clamshells to order.

He asks customers to notify him a few days in advance if they want the containers.



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