Fixed or random weight. Handle or no handle. Square or V-shaped zip. Polypropylene or polyethylene. Stand-up or regular.
These are just some of the many bag requests Mexican grape growers deal with.
While many shippers offered new gusseted bags and reusable plastic containers last year, John Pandol, special projects manager for Delano, Calif.-based Pandol Bros. Inc., said few retailers used them.
“We heard a lot of talk, but a lot of those bags went unused, and lot of those RPCs were trucked to other places at the end of the season,” said Pandol, who’s planning a modest gusseted bag program this spring.
The new pouch is not without issues, he said. When packed in the heat and then cooled in a wind tunnel, the polymer may become brittle and crack.
“Then you get bag failure,” he said. “Merchandisers like them, but we’ve heard the store-level guys had trouble with them.”
Bakersfield, Calif.-based Sun World International says it’s raising the bar with several new bags, including a cast polypropylene (CPP) film pouch bag for better product visibility and stand-up merchandising.
“Polyethylene tends to amplify bag cloudiness, one of the top five negative influencers at point of purchase,” marketing manager Natalie Erlendson said.
The Sun World pouch also comes with a resealable slider zip.
Josh Leichter, general manager of Fresno, Calif.-based Pacific Trellis Fruit LLC, said the new bags worked well last year, and more upscale supermarkets are asking for them.
“It takes a little more labor, a little more time to pack them,” Leichter said, “but for a premium product, it’s adding value, and the marketplace seems to be recognizing that.”
Jeff Olsen, vice president of the Visalia, Calif.-based Chuck Olsen Co., agrees the bags are attractive, if a bit expensive.
“At 80 to 90 cents a box, that’s $800 to $900 an acre,” he said, “so you have to try to recoup some of those costs.”
After using gusseted bags for three years, Louie Galvan, managing partner of Delano, Calif.-based Fruit Royale Inc., says he’s getting even more requests this year.
“The colors jump out at you, and the bag gives retailers more point-of-sale marketing opportunities,” Galvan said.
“With the convenient handle, there’s no excuse not to pick it up.”
Galvan and Fruit Royale offer zipper lock bags preprinted with the company's Global Trade Item Number.
Galvan is also handling requests for 2-pound fixed weight bags, which are more expensive and time-consuming to pack than random weight bags.
Atomic Torosian, managing partner in Crown Jewels Produce LLC, Fresno, Calif., which packs bags under the Crown Jewels label, said requests for clamshells are increasing slightly.
“There’s a place for clamshells,” he said. “There might be a little less shrink.”
Jared Lane, vice president of marketing at Bakersfield, Calif.-based Stevco Inc., said having a team of five in Nogales to market the deal allows the shipper to adjust quickly to customer needs, from club-store clamshells to pouch bags.
“Most retailers are heading in the direction of a clear polypropylene bag with more clarity and less design to show more of the grape,” he said
Pandol says the amount of printing on the new bag is another point of contention.
“Some say, ‘Hey farmer, use your package to tell your story,’” he said.
“Others say, ‘Quit using graphics, you’re hiding the product!’”
Like other shippers, Jerry Havel, director of sales and marketing at Nogales, Ariz.-based Fresh Farms, can handle any packaging request, but he doesn’t see the 2-pound random weight bag disappearing any time soon.
“I think the 2-pound bags will remain popular because they’re easy to pack, easy to stack and easy to ship,” Havel said.
While the new bags are beautiful, “we also need to increase consumption with taste,” Galvan said.
“If it tastes good and it’s a good package,” he said, “it’s a winner.”