Boost in pints, other big packs expected this season

10/27/2010 05:02:15 PM
Andy Nelson

To help move an expected big crop, Chilean blueberry importers expect to rely more on big packs this season.

Nolan Quinn, berry category director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group, envisions a packaging-related solution to an expected big Chilean blueberry crop.

“We’re trying to push people into larger packs to help eat up all that volume,” he said.

That will be especially important, Quinn said, during the deal’s expected promotional period from late December to mid-February.

Specifically, Oppenheimer will be pushing pints, Quinn said.

“I think the majority of Chilean blueberries will be in pints,” he said. “Pints are becoming the norm, certainly during peaks.”

But the company also expects stronger sales of even larger containers.

“There are some chains that are looking to use 18s as more of a regular item,” he said.

Quinn hopes the trend toward larger packages is complemented by a trend away from smaller ones.

“We’re trying to get away from 6s and to totally eliminate 4.4-ounce packs if we can,” he said.

Dave Bowe, owner of Coral Springs, Fla.-based Dave's Specialty Imports Inc., also predicted heavier use of pints this season to pack Chilean blueberries.

“It’s changed in recent years,” Bowe said. “It used to 4.4, 4.4., 4.4 — that’s all there was. Then it was 6, then pints. In the last three years, pints have been coming on strong.”

Bowe estimated that about 60-65% of Chilean blueberries packed for export to the U.S. this season would arrive in pint containers.

As usually happens, however, at the beginning of the deal, before volume shipments begin, most product will likely arrive in 4.4- and 6-ounce containers, Bowe said.

A few shippers will continue tilted toward the smaller packs even when the deal starts peaking.

“Some people — not us — will do 4.4 and 6 through November,” Bowe said.

The trend toward pints gained steam from their strong performance in the 2008-09 season, he said.

“It surprised me last year,” he said. “The price came out lower than we thought it would be. This should be a very, very good year for pints.”

Pints commonly sold in the $3.99-$4.99 range at retail last year, with some prices as low as $3.59, Bowe said.

“This year I think everybody will try to hold a price that they can make money on but that’s still competitive,” he said.

Washington, D.C.-based Sun Belle Inc. expects to ship not only more pints from Chile in 2010-2011 but more 18- and 24-ounce packs, said Janice Honigberg, the company’s president.

Club stores are the target audience for both of the larger packs, but Honigberg said there also has been considerable interest among conventional retailers for the 18-ounce packs.


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