The 1-pound clamshell container accounts for 78% of strawberry sales, according to the California Strawberry Commission. But Southern California grower-shippers say they see sales of 2- and 4-pounders creep upward when fruit is in good supply.

“When people are more confident on volume, and have the volume to promote, you’ll see a lot of the bigger sizes,” said Russ Widerburg, sales manager for Boskovich Farms Inc., Oxnard, Calif.

“If there’s not confidence in supplies, they’ll stick with the 1-pounders.”

Last year, the company sold a lot of 1-pounders early in the year, but as the season progressed, sales of 2- and 4-pound containers edged upward, he said, though 1-pounders remained the best-sellers overall.

Widerburg said he expects a similar scenario this year.

“For Valentine’s Day, it’s mostly 1-pounders being promoted,” he said.

“When you get into Easter, more of the 2- and 4-pounders are promoted.”

Price also is a deciding factor, he said.

David Cook, sales manager for Deardorff Family Farms in Oxnard, said he has not seen an annual increase in demand for 2-pound clamshells, but he does receive more requests for them “during the meat of the season,” when production is up.

“Prices are reasonable and production is heavy, so you go for it,” he said.

Widespread popularity

Sales of larger pack sizes are on the rise for more than just strawberries, said Douglas Ronan, vice president of marketing for Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc., Watsonville, Calif.

The company is shipping larger packs “across all four berry segments,” he said.

“We think offering larger pack sizes is definitely worth capitalizing on,” he said.

Larger pack sizes are not cannibalizing 1-pounder business, he added.

Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC has re-engineered some of its larger packs so more fit on a truck, and the company also has come up with a 3-pound clamshell, said Jim Roberts, vice president of sales.

Customers save up to 25 cents per unit if the product is traveling across the U.S. now that the company offers high-volume configurations.

“It allows you to get basically 50% more fruit on each truck,” Roberts said, so the freight costs are lower.

Naturipe packs a six-count case for its 2-pounders, which have an industry standard of four-count cases, and the company packs 4-pounders in three-count cases, which typically were packed two per case, he said.

And during the middle of last year, the company launched a 3-pound clamshell container shipped in four-count cases, Roberts said.

At California Giant Inc., Watsonville, Cindy Jewell, director of marketing, said she sees more mainstream retailers looking at 2-pounders as part of their standard mix.

The 2-pound package used to be an “opportunity package” that retailers “took out and put in,” she said.

California Giant also has a 2-pound package that fits six to a box rather than four to a box, she said.

More clamshells per box means more per pallet and less corrugated packaging used.

“It’s a win-win,” she said.

California Giant also has been fielding inquiries about reusable plastic containers from a few retailers, Jewell said.

“It will be interesting to see if that comes to fruition,” she said.