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A 2-pound pouch bag for Yakima Fresh, also called a gusset bag, provides a canvas for branding pears. <b>(Photo illustration by TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)</b>

A 2-pound pouch bag for Yakima Fresh, also called a gusset bag, provides a canvas for branding pears. (Photo illustration by TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

Pear marketing officials are encouraging more shippers to consider packing in “pouch” style bags that stand up straight on store shelves, allow for logos and feature handles for quick-grab shoppers.

“Pouch bags have been gaining momentum,” said Kevin Moffitt, president of Pear Bureau Northwest, which markets fresh pears from Washington and Oregon under the brand USA Pears.

Moffitt has been singing the praises of the pouch bags, which range in sizes up to 5 pounds, something already used by other commodity groups, at industry meetings the past year.

Retailers have been asking for them, too, said Moffitt. Wal-Mart started pushing the pouch bags about two years ago, while stores long have had good luck selling apples and table grapes in pouch bags, sometimes called gusset bags.

Ed Weathers, vice president of sales for Duckwall Fruit in Hood River, Oregon, noticed the same retailer demand.

“They understand it because other commodities are using it as well,” he said.

This year, Duckwall Fruit plans to pack 2-pound gusset bags. The company does not plan to upgrade any equipment to accommodate the new packaging, but Weathers was unsure if it would change
labor needs. “It’s an unknown for us,” Weathers said.

Though less common in pears, bags work well in the produce industry because they offer a “canvas,” said Kathy Means, vice president of industry relations for the Produce Marketing Association.

On them, marketers can print logos, recipes, instructions for ripening and nutritional facts. “This is a tried and true marketing option,” Mears said.

Also, retailers sometimes don’t like small pears next to big pears in bulk displays, Moffitt said. The pouch bags offer the opportunity to sell smaller fruit.

“It’s a way for us to merchandise small pears,” Steve Smith, general manager for Yakima Fresh, a sales company in Yakima, Washington.

How many Northwest packers already use pouch bags is unclear, Moffitt said.

About 10 sales companies represent 90 percent of the Northwest volume shipped each year, and a majority of those sales teams promote the bags with clients.

Of the 54 pear shippers on the bureau’s roster, 43 offer some form of bagged pears, but many are sold in 5-pound sacks that lay down, much like a bag of onions or potatoes.

Moffitt called the pouch sacks a “better, clean, more upscale look.”