Growers expect demand, hail to help increase bagged volume

09/14/2012 04:07:00 PM
David Mitchell

When it comes to Washington apples, bulk usually trumps bag-ged. This season, expect to see more fruit than usual headed your way in poly and mesh packaging.

“This year, with its potential for a larger percentage of lower-grade fruit and a continued weak economy, we expect to see an increase in bagged fruit over previous years,” said Loren Queen, marketing and communications manager for Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash. “Add to this the fact that much of the deal in the Midwest and Northeast have traditionally been heavy toward bags, and we could see a real spike in our bag programs.”

Bob Mast, vice president of marketing for Columbia Marketing International, Wenatchee, Wash., said a July 20 hailstorm affected virtually every grower in the region, so many have hail-grade fruit to move.

Hail-grade means an apple may have blemishes, but the skin of the fruit was not penetrated.

“We’ll do our best to educate customers that it’s strictly cosmetic,” Mast said. “Offering the hailed fruit will supplement lost bag sales, fill a need for East Coast and Midwest retailers and create value for consumers.”

Wenatchee-based Stemilt Growers LLC, plans to launch an aggressive campaign featuring a bin with 5-pound bags, said communications director Brianna Shales.

“Bulk will still be the majority of apple category sales, but bags offer retailers a great value opportunity with the fruit we have,” she said. “We are developing a bright new graphic bin that will attract the consumer and also provide shelf space for the 5-pound bag

“This tool will help retailers keep the volume or tonnage from slipping with the lack of 3-pound regional bags in the marketplace.”

Just what will be in Washington apple bags depends on who you ask. Shales and others said they expect larger-sized apples.That could depend, however, on how much thinning a grower does, she said.

Some sources said they expect smaller sizes to be the norm.

“With more apples on the tree you get smaller fruit. We anticipate having to bag to meet retail demand,” said Randy Steensma, president of Nuchief Sales Inc., Wenatchee.

Some shippers, including Stemilt, already had bag plans in the works for their smaller-sized fruit.

Stemilt is putting more of an emphasis on Lil Snappers, its kid-focused product that features size 125 and size 113 apples in 3-pound resealable bags, Shales said.

Although Stemilt expects to have fewer small apples this season, it wants to move as many of the Lil Snapper bags as possible because the product returns more money to the retailer than a typical 3-pound bag, she said.



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