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Pouch bags gain traction at retail as more shippers make the new pack style available

They go by many names, but gusseted stand-up bags, mostly high graphic and many of them with handles, referred to now with increasing frequency as “pouch” bags are unquestionably gaining in popularity as an alternative form of grape packaging with many retailers.

The bags first made their appearance in the table grape industry just a few short years ago, and now it appears that most California shippers are putting at least a portion of their grapes in pouch bags. 04-EarlySJV-PouchbagsGusseted stand-up bags, or pouch bags as they are now commonly called, are becoming increasingly popular at retail. (Photo courtesy of Fruit Royale)Some say they have customers who want the pouch bags exclusively, and some shippers have switched entirely from traditional poly bags to the new pouch style.

While some in the industry see the pouch bag as an alternative to clamshells, others find that they are not eating into clamshell business at all but are replacing poly bags. Those different perspectives undoubtedly are influenced by differing purchasing patterns of the various shippers’ retailer customer base.

The pouch bags have had their naysayers, and at least until recently some in the industry had been quite convinced that pouch bags would never become a significant factor in grape packaging. But no one The Produce News talked to in the San Joaquin Valley grape deal this season has expressed that view. On the contrary, it is becoming quite apparent, and appears to be widely accepted, that the pouch bags are gaining traction and are quickly becoming an important form of packaging for fresh grapes at retail.

Columbine Vineyards in Delano, CA, packed a few grapes last year in “the stand-up bag” and will have it available this year for all varieties, according to Sales Manager Anthony Stetson.

Hronis Inc. in Delano, ran some trials with the gusseted bags last year, and response was so favorable that this year all bags the company packs will be in that style, according to Pete Hronis, vice president of sales and marketing.

Fruit Royale Inc. in Delano began packing pouch bags exclusively in its Mexican grape program this year and plans to continue with that through the summer in the San Joaquin Valley.

Atomic Torosian, a partner with Crown Jewels Produce Co. in Fresno, CA, said that more retailers are requesting the gusseted bags this year. the company has been offering them in its Mexican grape program and will do so in the San Joaquin Valley as well.

The trend toward pouch bags continues, and there is a solid demand for those as well as for clamshells, according to Sean Stockton, president of Sundale Sales Inc. in Tulare, CA. As more customers switch out of traditional poly bags, a significant portion of the company’s volume will go in the pouch bags this year, year said.

“In terms of packaging, we see an increased presence of the pouch bags,” said John Pandol, a director at Pandol Bros. Inc. in Delano. “One day we will figure out” what to call them, he said, but “‘pouch’ seems to have replaced the ‘gusseted’ terminology” in general use now.

In Pandol’s observation, the pouch bags “seem to have replaced a fair amount of clamshell business,” he thinks because of the lower price and because “it is just a better package for grapes.” In any case, “the gusseted bag with some graphics on it seems to be working,” he continued.

As has been true with “the initial iteration” of every new style of packaging, the tendency at the outset has been to use too many graphics on the pouch bags, Pandol said. Package designers “don’t seem to get the idea that people want to look at the product, not their drawings.”

But most of the newer bags, while they still have high graphics, have them in much more modest amounts, he said.