FRESNO, Calif. — Grape grower-shippers plan to move much more of their volume in stand-up pouch bags than they did a year ago, even if some withhold judgment on whether the trend is here to stay.

“The new handled pouch bags will be more and more in play as we transition from Mexico to the San Joaquin Valley,” Atomic Torosian, managing partner at Fresno-based Crown Jewels Produce, said in mid-June.

“It’s our second year on them, but this will be the year that we see a big spike in usage — maybe tenfold.”

“We’ve seen a lot of the clamshell business migrate to the pouch bag,” said John Pandol, special projects director for Delano-based Pandol Bros. Inc.

“Last year in Mexico, the items most left over at the end of the season were pouch bags and RPCs. This year, guys couldn’t get enough pouches and started flying them in from China.”

“We’ll do a lot more with the stand-up, gusseted bags because more retailers are requiring it,” said Pete Giotta, salesman for Tulare-based Sundale Vineyards.

“A large percentage of retailers are requesting that because it’s a nice presentation for table grapes,” said George Matoian, sales and marketing director for Kingsburg-based Visalia Produce Sales Inc. “They think it helps sell and market the grapes in the store. The grapes definitely look better in it.”

If the trend continues, cheaper conventional bags and clamshells could become more niche items.

“Certain retailers will continue with the clam program, club stores particularly. That has to do with the size and weight they’re looking for,” said Jim Llano, account sales manager for Delano-based Castle Rock Vineyards.

“There are still a lot of people who like the conventional bag because they don’t want to pay the extra cost,” said David Stone, owner of Valhalla Sales & Marketing Inc.

“The handle bag is three times the cost of a regular bag. Some retailers don’t care about the cost; they like the presentation. And other retailers want to provide their customers with the best eating fruit possible at the cheapest price.”

“The early innovators in the high-graphic pouch bags tended to be the better quality shippers,” Pandol said. “So there may be a halo effect and it’s not the bag, but the fruit. Maybe it’s just the clarity of the plastic. We’ll see how it plays out in the market. It may be a novelty that wears off.”

“Some retailers said it reduced their shrink a lot,” Pandol said. “I scratched my head as to why. Before, they were piling conventional bags three or four deep and crushing the ones on the bottom. The pouches stack in rows of one, which forces them to restock more often.

"In a way, the package design forced them to do better merchandising. It may be that in formats where the training is not as good as it once was, they get a better result and less shrink.”