Good Fruit Grower

May 15

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C herry marketers, excited about a new consumer bag that will hit retail shelves in a big way this year, see it as a way to sell more cherries at a premium price. The bag, known as a gusseted bag, is folded at the bottom so it stands upright when on display. The 2014 cherry season will mark the third year some shippers have used the relatively new package. Many believe it represents the bag of the future and will be widely accepted within a short time. Some packers plan to use the bag for nearly all of their domestic pack this season. The genesis of cherry packaging has been a journey, not a destination, says West Mathison, who remembers his grandfather Tom purposely sending the wrong load of cherries in plastic catch-weight bags decades ago to a retailer in desperation because he couldn't convince any retailers to try the new cherry package. Mathison, president of Stemilt Growers, Inc., in Wenatchee, Washington, said the cherry industry has historically adopted packaging concepts from other produce items. "The catch-weight cherry bag was a product used by the grape industry in the mid-1990s," he said. "Basically, it's a plastic sack and the fruit is sold as catch-weight." Within four years of introducing the catch-weight bags, bag sales quadrupled, Mathi- son said. "That was the first step in cherry packaging that transitioned from loose fruit sold in bulk. Since then, there have been different iterations of the bag and size of the bag." Later came clamshell containers, a package still used by some. The clamshell was created for strawberries, a fruit that needed rigid plastic containers for field packing and could be cooled fast, explained Mathison. "It was never designed for cherries that are sensitive to dehydration," he said, adding that the airflow of the clamshell dries out the cherry stem at the retail level. "However, they work in some formats and for some retailers." Several years ago, grapes and mini peppers began showing up in a new type of bag. The new, stand-up bags were sturdy and allowed the printing of high definition graphics on the bags. Cherry packers took notice. 20 MAY 15, 2014 GOOD FRUIT GROWER Cherries New cherry bags BOOST SALES The new consumer bags protect fruit better and allow high-definition graphics, but are more costly to pack. by Melissa Hansen P HO T O C O U R TESY O F C O L UM BIA MARKETING INTERNATIO N A L

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