Worker bags avocados at the Eco Farms packinghouse in Temecula, Calif. Eco Farms has increased its bagging capacity to keep up with demand for bagged avocados, says Gahl Crane, sales director. ( Tom Burfield )

The volume of bagged avocados continues to increase every year as consumers seek convenience and/or value options, and retailers discover another way to merchandise avocados and drive sales of multiple pieces of fruit.

At the same time, as with all produce categories, many avocado grower-shippers are looking for bags that are sustainable and environmentally friendly.

“The bagged category is growing,” said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing for Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif.

The company puts up more than 3 million consumer bags a month thanks to 20 bagging machines that Wedin said are “really fast and efficient.”

“It is a big program,” he said.

Bags offer an opportunity for another avocado display, he said. 

“Anytime you have another display, you’re helping consumption.”

Bagging also is big at the Escondido, Calif., location of Los Angeles-based The Giumarra Cos., said Gary Caloroso, regional business development director.

“We continue to see bag sales increase,” he said. “We were the first avocado company to aggressively promote nutrition on our bags.”

Giumarra includes avocado recipes and touts the nutrition benefits of avocados on its bags.

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One way some retailers get the most out of bags is by packing them with smaller avocados for value-oriented consumers, he said.

“We’ve seen great success with those types of retailers for price sensitive consumers,” Caloroso said.

They also can help increase overall sales.

“When we see customers who offer both bulk and bagged avocados, the bagged is incremental sales,” he said.

Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc., Fallbrook, Calif., also sells a lot of bagged avocados, said partner Bob Lucy, partner.

“It’s a wonderful merchandising tool,” he said.

One of the company’s retail customers offers six different stock-keeping units of avocados, including different configurations of bags, he said.

“That’s fantastic for us as growers and marketers,” Lucy said.

Options include various counts and sizes of conventional and organic avocados.

“We want to make sure that any retailer that wants to have a bag configuration, we’ll do it for them,” he said.

Bags no longer are limited to smaller fruit that growers sometimes have trouble moving.

At least one of Del Rey’s retail customers requests size 36 fruit in bags, and quite a few retailers in the East ask for 48s or 40s, he said.

Eco Farms in Temecula, Calif., has increased its bagging capacity to keep up with demand for bagged avocados, said Gahl Crane, sales director.

They’ve become more popular, since consumers don’t just buy one avocado to enjoy with a meal, he said.

They eat them throughout the week for breakfast, lunch or dinner and even in desserts, he said.

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“As we have seen more uses for them and the versatility grows, that correlates directly to buying more avocados at a single time,” Crane said.

Bags probably account for up to 30% of the business Index Fresh Inc., Riverside, Calif., said Dana Thomas, president and CEO.

They’re convenient for consumers and retailers, he said.

He, too, has noticed a change in bag configurations over the past five to seven years, with retailers using a variety of size and count configurations.

“Merchandisers and retailers are coming up with imaginative and creative ways of increasing the amount of fruit that goes into bags based on their individual clientele,” he said.

Bags also are one way to help ensure an accurate ring for organic avocados, he pointed out.

Sustainability has become a buzzword in the produce industry, and many grower-shippers are looking for a way to make their avocado bags more sustainable.

“We’re in the process of trying to get close to 100% recyclable on the mesh bags that we use,” said Crane of Eco Farms.

“It’s consumer and retailer driven,” he said.

The company already uses recyclable corrugated boxes and reusable plastic containers and is looking for a way offer sustainable bags to customers for a reasonable price.

There is an added cost to it, he said, “but it is part of our corporate philosophy and mission to be sustainable and not produce excess waste.”

“We’re trying to figure out how to do that in the best manner possible.”

Del Rey Avocado also is looking at different packaging options.

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“We want to make sure that we can have something that really doesn’t have the carbon footprint and is better for the environment,” Lucy said.

“We want to have less stuff to throw away and create less stuff for the landfills.”

Index Fresh is on the lookout for sustainable bags, too.

“There are some compostable bags out there, and we’re looking for different options as well,” Thomas said.

“We would love to do a more compostable, sustainable bag.”

Calavo has a plastic recyclable bag, but it had a paper label, Wedin said.

“We have converted that sticker to a tear-off sticker,” he said.

The bag comes with instructions asking consumers to tear off the paper sticker before recycling.

Giumarra also is seeking ways to become more sustainable, Caloroso said.

“That definitely is a hot topic within our industry — to be more sustainable and environmentally responsible,” he said.

Related content: California avocado crop rebounds

 
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