Consumer packs, such as 5-pound bags, now account for 40%-50% of the total volume of sweet onions that Shuman Produce ships annually.
Consumer packs, such as 5-pound bags, now account for 40%-50% of the total volume of sweet onions that Shuman Produce ships annually.

Although some growers, packers and importers of Peruvian sweet onions report sales are in the bag, others say bulk is still a popular pack.

Shuman Produce Inc., Reidsville, Ga., has seen a steady growth in demand for consumer bags, marketing coordinator Andy Brady said in an e-mail.

In fact, consumer bags now represent up to half the total volume of sweet onions the grower-packer ships each year.

“The added value and convenience of our consumer bags has driven their rise in popularity,” he said.

During the past five years, Bland Farms LLC, Glennville, Ga., has also seen a shift toward more bags and other consumer packs, sales manager R. Landis Bland said.

Ralph Diaz, export and import manager for Sunbury, Pa.-based Karpinski Trucking & Produce Inc., said a growing number of his retail customers request consumer packs of 2- and 3-pound mesh bags with handles and plastic wraps.

“It has increased, definitely,” he said. “It’s a lot easier for the (consumer). I think it makes a nicer looking bag.”

Although the bags are significantly more expensive than bulk and require specialized machinery, Diaz said packers have to cater to customers to stay in business.

“If you’re going to deal on the retail side of this industry, you’re going to have to offer it,” he said.

Hendrix Produce Inc., Metter, Ga., also is experiencing a trend toward full-wrap bags because of the added real estate it provides, vice president Kevin Hendrix said.

The wrap allows for printing of not only nutritional information but also recipes.

Todd Van Solkema, chief executive officer of Van Solkema Produce Inc., Byron Center, Mich., said the demand for bags varies among retailers.

“All retailers are different,” he said. “Some retailers are asking for customer packs. Some are asking for bulk, and some are asking for both.

This is the second year Van Solkema has included recipes on the back of bags and a quick-response code that consumers can scan with their smart phone.

They are taken to Van Solkema’s website, www.vansolk-ema,com, for additional recipes.

Brian Kastick, president of Saven Corp., Savannah, Ga., which markets the Oso Sweet brand, said he also has seen packaging preferences differ among retailers.

“We have some customers who really want full-wrap bags on display,” he said. “Other people think it’s the right mix to have bulk on display.”

But by using a large display of sweet onions at the entry to the produce department and another within, retailers may be able to increase their overall category sales even more, Kastick said.

“It can be a really eye-catching archway into the beginning of the produce section,” he said.

“Put some 5-pound bags up, and it changes (shoppers’) experience.”