In the packaging Battle of the B’s — bags versus boxes — bags may be gaining the upper hand when it comes to South African summer citrus, said Joretha Geldenhuys, chief executive officer of the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum.

“Our experience and research has shown that bagged citrus is becoming more and more preferred in retail stores,” she said.

It varies from region to region, but 2-pound and 3-pound bags have become very popular for clementines, Geldenhuys said.

Conversely, she said, box sales have suffered.

“The 5-pound box of clementines has seen a lot less demand in recent years,” she said.

Bags also are gaining in the navel market, Geldenhuys said, with 3-pounders doing particularly well.

Certain retail customers also like smaller navel boxes, she said.

About 80% of all packaged South African clementines will be in bags this year, said Tom Cowan, South African citrus category manager for Fort Pierce, Fla.-based DNE World Fruit Sales.

Packing in a 1-, 2-  or 3-pound bag instead of a 5-pound box limits consumer sticker shock, Cowan said.

“In the summer it’s hard to get a 5-pound box under $6.99, $8.99 or even $10.99,” he said. “That just doesn’t move fruit.”

Boxes sell better in the winter clementine deals because there’s more fruit on the market and price points are lower, Cowan said. There’s also more competition in the summer from non-citrus summer fruits.

“As soon as the temperature goes up, demand for citrus goes down,” he said.

Marc Solomon, president and chief executive officer of Montreal-based Fisher Capespan Inc., agreed. That’s why he, like others, sees a trend toward bags.

“It’s a better price point,” Solomon said of bags. “And cartons aren’t favored by consumers when there are so many other options in the summer.”

The 3-pound bag is the workhorse for both South African clementines and navels, Solomon said.

Bags will play an even bigger role this year because fruit size is expected to be smaller because of heavy sets, said David Mixon, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Vero Beach, Fla.-based Seald Sweet International.

“Last year the larger sizes didn’t lend themselves to bags,” he said. “This year there will be more and more opportunities.”