Clamshells for cherries are growing in popularity. ( Courtesy Stemilt Growers )

Pouch bags have become the primary delivery method for Northwest cherries, but clamshell containers rapidly are gaining popularity, and Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers Inc. has come up with an innovative container for its proprietary Skylar Rae cherries.

The catch-weight pouch bag was developed many years ago and “changed how cherries have been sold,” said Scott Marboe, director of marketing for Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers, Wenatchee.

They reduce shrink and help ensure a more accurate ring at the cash register, he said.

The grab-and-go concept is good for consumers and retailers, and it streamlined the packing process for grower-shippers, he said.

“The bag has gone a long way to cut shrink and drive consumption,” agreed Mac Riggan, director of marketing for Chelan Fresh Marketing, Chelan, Wash.

Chelan Fresh uses 1.25-pound pouch bags for rainier cherries and 2.25-pound bags for dark sweet cherries, he said.

Meanwhile, clamshell containers have been showing up more and more frequently in cherry displays, especially at big box stores like Costco, said Matt Nowak, who handles export and domestic sales for Grower Direct Marketing LLC, Stockton, Calif.

Those stores usually don’t have a lot of produce employees to monitor the department, he said.

“(Clamshells) allow them to maintain a better sales area.”

Clamshells also display well, Riggan said.

“It’s not just a bunch of plastic bags.”

And they usually show off the cherries better.

“With the clamshell, you’re really getting to focus on the product,” he said.

Three- and 4-pound clamshells are an especially good vehicle to move more cherries during the peak season, Marboe said.

And they’re a good value for consumers.

Clamshells also are commonly used for proprietary varieties, organic fruit and large-size cherries.

“Every store is different,” Marboe said. “They have their own way they want to use them.”

There’s a food safety issue involved, too, said Chuck Sinks, president of sales and marketing for Sage Fruit Co., Yakima, Wash.

“Some consumers would rather buy out of a clamshell than an open-top pouch bag,” he said.

On the downside, clamshell containers cost more than pouch bags and require more expensive machines and more labor to pack them, Nowak said.

Stemilt Growers came up with its own unique clamshell for its premium Skylar Rae cherries, which were introduced in 2016, said marketing director Roger Pepperl.

The company needed a way to make the product stand out in the produce aisle.

Consumers are attracted to high-quality products, but retailers aren’t likely to build a large display of pricey fruit, he said.

“You’re at a deficit on the display side, so you need a shiny lure,” he said. “You need to call it out.”

Stemilt’s “shiny lure” was a kind of domed clamshell package with an attractive foil label.

Skylar Rae cherries also are available in custom-print pouch bags with a black header “that calls out the item really well,” Pepperl said.