As for pints, this is just the second season they’ve been available out of Chile on a widespread basis, Honigberg said. Supplies were very limited in 2008-09, the season they were first used.
Considering how relatively new they are, Honigberg said their growth has been impressive.
Jim Roberts, vice president of sales for Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC, said the push toward pints would help alleviate any concern about moving a crop that he and others estimate to be 25-30% bigger than last year.
He expects a repeat of 2009-10.
“Last year we did a lot more pints, and that value proposition really brought more consumers into the category,” he said. “It wasn’t a struggle last year, and it won’t be a struggle at all this year to move through (the anticipated extra volumes).”
The shift toward pints has played a role in transforming the market, Roberts said.
“We really had a demand market now, and I think that will continue,” he said. “Consumption is up dramatically.”
Joe Barsi, director of business development for Watsonville, Calif.-based California Giant Inc., also expects a continued shift toward bigger packs for Chilean blueberries in 2010-11.
“A larger percentage of our packs will be pints and larger, the predominant pack being pints,” he said.
Watsonville, Calif.-based Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc. expects to ship blueberries from Chile in a variety of packs this season, including 6-ouncers, pints, 18-ouncers and two-pounders, said John Johnston, the company’s director of blueberry product management.
Despite that variety, one packaging trend definitely stands out, Johnston said.
“The predominant pack will be pints this season, and in general, there is a trend toward larger pack sizes, driven by retail and consumer demand,” he said.
Not everyone, however, sees a big shift toward pints.
Tampa, Fla.-based Sun Valley International expects to bring in 4.4-ounce containers until about mid-November, when 6-ouncers should take over, said Bob Ritchart, the company’s vice president of sales.
As of the week of Oct. 11, the company didn’t have any pint sales planned, and Ritchart expected a similar mix of 4.4- and 6-ounce sales.
Based on what Sun Valley’s grower partners in Chile are saying, they’re not seeing volumes adequate to pack pints, Ritchart said.