Pack sizes for berries continue to expand

07/20/2012 11:52:00 AM
Tom Burfield

The trend continues toward larger pack sizes for many berries, but you also might start to see some downsized packaging for some varieties.

The standard strawberry package long ago switched from plastic pint baskets to 1-pound clamshell containers.

More recently, blueberries have started turning up in larger clamshells rather than the standard 5- to 6-ounce package.

But now, David Grice, produce packaging sales manager for Houston-based FormTex Plastics Corp., said he’s hearing rumblings about single-serve packs for blueberries.

Naturipe Farms LLC, Naples, Fla., was recognized for its Berry Quick Snacks at last year’s Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit.

It’s a single-serve item that comes in a 100% recyclable rigid pack that prevents crushing of the berries, extends shelf life and is easy to open, said Dwight Ferguson, president and chief executive officer.

Grice said many of his customers say they will test single-serve berry packs this year during the off-season.

Meanwhile, grower-shippers seem pleased that larger clamshells are catching on, especially for blueberries.

The blueberry industry is fortunate because of the wide range of packaging sizes to choose from as volume increases and decreases, said Keith Mixon, president of Dole Berry Co. LLC, Watsonville, Calif., and SunnyRidge Farm Inc., Winter Haven, Fla.

“We can balance out demand and supply with the right pack size,” he said.

Oregon Berry Packing Co., Hillsboro, Ore., is thinking big this season.

“Probably 90% of what we do in the U.S. market will be in the 2-pound clamshell,” said Brian Malensky, director of fresh market sales.

A lot of club stores use the large pack, he said, but it’s also a good way to move more berries during July, which is Berry Month in Oregon.

“This is when we’re at our peak volume,” Malensky said.

The easiest way to sell more product is to use the 2-pound clamshells during July and August, when prices are lowest, he said.

By the Fourth of July, Wish Farms, Plant City, Fla., already had packed many 18-ounce blueberry clamshells, said Gary Wishnatzki, president and chief executive officer.

Some companies offer the larger pack exclusively, while for others, it’s just part of their program, he said.

“It moves volume, and it’s a good deal for consumers,” Wishnatzki said.

There’s less packaging material involved, which means sellers can offer a lower price per pound.

But a value price isn’t the only reason shoppers are picking up the larger packages, said Mike Klackle, vice president of berry sales for Curry & Co. LLC, Brooks, Ore.

Consumer demand for blueberries also plays a big role, as is demonstrated by the fact that the larger packs move well even at high retail prices, he said.

Debby Wechsler, executive secretary for the North American Raspberry and Blackberry Association, Pittsboro., N.C., would like to see blackberries in larger containers.

One of best ways to use blackberries is in a pie, she said.

“If you could sell blackberries in at least a quart container, then people would be able to buy enough for a pie without having to buy two,” she said.

“If you want people to seriously eat berries, you will have to put them in bigger containers.”

Grice said FormTex had a 12-ounce blackberry container on the drawing board, but so far, no one has committed to it.

“I saw a lot of domestic and Mexico blueberries packed in 18-ounce (containers),” he said.

“We sold more 18-ounces this year than we ever sold before.”



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