Michigan apple grower-shippers have found bags to be the best way to move their product, and many pack their fruit in reusable plastic containers.


“We do a lot of bags,” says Damon Glei, secretary-treasurer and part owner of Glei’s Inc., Hillsdale, Mich., which ships 95% of its apples in bags.


The 3-pounder is the most popular size.


But an exception to the rule is the Honeycrisp variety, which the company ships primarily in fancier tray packs. Glei says his company, and probably many others, are increasing the number of Honeycrisp tray packs they ship.


The proportion of bags outweighs bulk product by a 70-30 ratio at Michigan Fresh Marketing LLC, Belding, Mich., said president Tom Curtis. But the volume of bulk product the company ships is on the rise, largely the result of export business.


Whether it arrives bulk or bagged, product from Michigan Fresh Marketing will come in an attractive package.


“Everything we do is in display-ready cartons,” Curtis said, and that includes bags.


The company uses a specially configured Bliss box-making machine to put together display-ready cartons.


The two-piece box has printing on the inside as well as on the outside, and the produce manager can merchandise the box directly on the produce shelf, Curtis said.


“A big share of our trade is mesh bags and poly bags,” said Pat Chase, sales and field representative for Jack Brown Produce Inc., Sparta, Mich.


Although the company usually packs small-sized apples in 3-, 5-, 8- and 10-pound bags, club stores often request bags with larger sizes — 3 inches or more in diameter.


Lake Michigan Growers Marketing LLC, Greenville, Mich., offers a range of packaging options, including bags, bushels, tray packs and tri-wall bins, said owner Roger Anthony.


The 3-, 5- and 8-pounders are the most popular bags sizes, but the company also does some 10-pounders.


Many companies also ship in reusable plastic containers, especially those who do business with big-box stores.


Glei’s has packed RPCs for other companies and will offer the containers itself starting this season.


Packing RPCs hasn’t been a problem so far, but then other companies have been responsible for the accounting function, Glei said. He said he’ll know better how they work for his company after its first season.


The firm used to pack loose apples in cardboard boxes, but now Walmart is willing to bear the cost of RPCs, so the company will comply, he said.


Michigan Fresh Marketing used to pack two sizes of RPCs, but now ships a single size, which makes the process simpler, Curtis said.


Big-box stores want them, he said, “and whatever the customer wants, we pretty much try to do.”


RPCs have become part of the business at Jack Brown Produce, Chase said.


The days are gone when the company only packed standard boxes of 3-pound bags.


Now customers may ask for bags with store labels, special cartons, RPCs or traditional corrugated boxes, he said.


The company may do more tray packs for export and some more clamshells this season than in the past, Chase said.


“Everybody wants something a little different,” he said.


“That’s what we have to do.”