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LAS VEGAS, NV -- After nearly a year in development in close consultation with experienced package designers and several key retail customers, and after evaluating dozens of concepts, Pandol. Bros. Inc. in Delano, CA, is close to launching a truly innovative consumer packaging concept for fresh grapes -- a type of packaging that "has never been seen or used before in produce," according to Tristan Kieva, director of business development and marketing.

The new packaging was being test marketed but was still about a month away from an official announcement and a nationwide launch when Ms. Kieva talked with The Produce News about the concept at the United Fresh 2010 show, here, April 21. Specifics of the packaging were not disclosed for publication, but Ms. Kieva did talk on the record about some of the concept's benefits.

"It is a consumer packaging that delivers grapes in a more convenient way and has the highest amount of impact of any package in the category at retail," she said. It displays the product well and yet is made of recyclable material, and "it has increased the amount of units per case more than any other product that exists today," which allows more product to be put on a truck with a resulting reduction in freight costs.

"It doesn't have the dead space of a clamshell," she said.

As early as last year, "we sat down with [selected] retailers and showed them some of the ideas that we had and gathered their feedback," Ms. Kieva said. "We have been working almost a year to launch something new and revolutionary to the grape category. We are about a month shy from introducing it."

However, the company did take advantage of the United show to give some additional retail customers a pre-launch preview of the new packaging concept.

The firm's new packaging is currently being used with some grapes from Mexico for test marketing with a major West Coast retailer and an East Coast retailer that will feature it during June. "Our intention is to roll it out nationwide come the California season in early July," she said. "From a merchandising standpoint, it really takes into consideration not only the retailer's need for something efficient but also the consumer's need for convenience and functionality."