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Castle Rock will ship high-graphic stand-up bag for grapes to some retailers

RICHGROVE, CA — Castle Rock Vineyards, here, will be shipping some of its grapes in a new consumer pack style this year, according to James (Jim) Llano, sales manager.

“We have gone to a stand-up bag,” Mr. Llano said July 11. It is not a totally new concept; “This bag has been around” and is being used by “some other shippers,” but Castle Rock started using the bag this year during the Coachella, CA season. The bag used in Coachella was clear, with no graphics. “Once we start here in the San Joaquin Valley, we will be using this bag with our graphics … including UPC-PLU information.”

Among the benefits of the bag are the high quality of the printing on the bag and the fact that the plastic material from which the bag is made is “quite clear, compared to the other bags,” allowing much improved visibility for the grapes as compared to regular grape bags.

“We have had a number of retailers really get behind this bag, and some of them are wanting to use this bag exclusively,” he said.

In addition, “we think it might be easier to pack” than traditional grape bags because it is wider.

However, the new bag, which also has a convenient handle for consumers, is “a little more expensive than the traditional bag,” he added.

In Coachella, Castle Rock tested the new bags in cartons. In the San Joaquin Valley, “we will use it also in our Styrofoam box,” Mr. Llano said. “The majority of what we pack into is in Styrofoam.”

Castle Rock will be shipping the stand-up bag to about half-a-dozen retailers “as we get started out of Arvin,” CA, packing them in “the same box” that was tested in Coachella, he said. The company expected its shipments out of the Arvin district at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley to start around mid-July. Then, beginning around mid-August, “we will use this bag in our Styrofoam configuration as we transition” to the 19-pound foam boxes compared to the 18-pound size used in Coachella.

“This bag is something that we will be using with both major retailers and smaller regional retailers as well. We have customers everywhere from Hawaii to the East Coast that have started to step up to this bag,” Mr. Llano said.

For exported products, “we will continue to use our regular bags rather than the stand-up bags,” he said.

Based on comments “that we have had back from retailers,” one thing they like about the stand-up bags is that less damage results from mishandling by produce clerks. “They have found that some of the produce clerks who may not be as educated as perhaps they should be will sometimes twirl the regular bag and tighten it,” and that “damages the fruit.” Then they will stack the twirled bags on top of each other, “further adding pressure damage to the fruit.” With the stand-up bags, “you really can’t do that,” he said. “They’re just not designed that way.”

Over the last few years, Castle Rock, like most shippers in the industry, been taking out some of its Thompsons and replaced them with newer varieties. In Castle Rock’s case, “we have … planted more of the Autumn Kings and more of some of the newer red varieties. The two varieties that have really increased for us the last couple of years are Castle Rock Red and Scarlet Royal.” The company will also see an increase in production of Crimsons “because of new vineyards that went in three or four years back that are now coming into commercial production,” Mr. Llano said.

“This weekend we will be starting our Flame seedless out of the Arvin area,” he said. Sugraone could start a week later and Summer Royal by the end of July.

Other Castle Rock varieties are Princess, Autumn Royal, Red Globe and Calmeria.