Driven by abundant volume of smaller sizes, bags will present a value option to consumers in the 2010-11 Washington apple season, marketers said in August.

With the fresh market crop estimated at a record of nearly 109 million cartons for 2010, and apple varieties expected to average one to two sizes below a year ago, Washington’s reality of larger volume of smaller sizes may fit nicely with the national crop this year, said Desmond O'Rourke, president of Belrose Inc., Pullman, Wash.

“Washington will have more bags and Michigan and New York may not have as many apples to sell this year,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in August projected Michigan output would be off by 47% this year and New York is estimated to produce 13% fewer apples. In contrast, Washington apple output was projected up 5% by USDA.

The varieties most often featured in bags include red delicious, galas, fuji and granny smith.

In the 2009-10 season, 36% of red delicious packed through the end of October were 72 size and larger, said Charlie Pomianek, manager of the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association, Wenatchee, Wash. That compared to just 19% of the crop that was 72s and larger in 2008-09.

On the other hand, just 27% of the 2009 crop was size 100s to 125s, compared with 39% of the 2008 crop that was sized 100s to 125s.

Both 2009 and 2010 crop years featured just over 30% of red delicious volume in size 80s to 88s, Pomianek said.

Most industry observers expect the 2010 crop year to feature fruit sizes more like the 2008 crop than the 2009 edition.

While the 2009 crop wasn’t suited to bag promotions, this season is different, said Bob Mast, vice president of marketing for Columbia Marketing International Corp., Wenatchee,

“This year we will have more opportunity for a bag program again,” Mast said.

While 3-pound bags have emerged over time as the leading driver of promotion opportunities in Washington, Mast said the 2010 crop will feature plenty of 5-pound bag promotions.

Consumers looking for a value will find it with Washington’s bag options, said Suzanne Wolter, marketing director for Rainier Fruit Co., Selah, Wash.

“We’ve had a fair amount of shift to the 3-pound bag to get the price point for consumers, but we look to do promotions on 5-pound, 8-pound and maybe even 10-pound bags,” she said. “The fruit size will give us those opportunities.”

Because Washington apples may generally peak on 88s to 113s, size 113s and 125s will present value opportunities to consumers, said Loren Queen, marketing and communications manager for Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash.

“We will see bag opportunities and bin opportunities,” Queen said, with multiple bag options for buyers to choose from.

Queen noted the company features a 2-pound bag option to appeal to kids.

While bag promotions are typically associated with conventional fruit, Wolter said some retail chains move heavy volumes of organic apples in bags.

For supermarkets, bags help segregate organic from conventional fruit and prevent cashiers from scanning organic fruit as conventional.