Bosch Packaging Technology sales support manager Michael Gensheimer stands in front of the Bosch SVC 4020 Hygienic VFFS Bagger, a vertical packaging machine platform the company debuted at Pack Expo in Las Vegas. Pre-weighed bags are becoming a new favorite of retailers and consumers alike.
Jimmy Burch Sr., co-owner of Burch Farms Inc., Faison, N.C., said 50% of the sweet potatoes the company ships to retail accounts are packed in bags. Three-pounders are the most popular, but Burch Farms also packs 5- and 10-pound sizes.
Retailer like bagged product because they’re easy to merchandise, can be rung up at a unit price and, Burch said, often encourage shoppers to buy more — instead of picking up one or two potatoes from a bulk display, they may buy a bag of seven or eight.
Consumers like the convenience and the food safety/sanitation factor, since packaged product hasn’t been handled by myriad other shoppers.
The trend has created a bull market for manufacturers of bagging and weighing equipment.
Burch now has six bagging machines, including a new Giro unit that several West Coast citrus shippers, like Seald Sweet West International Inc., Dinuba, Calif., also have taken a liking to.
“We do a lot of bagging,” said Rick Eastes, vice president and general manager.
Seald Sweet can pack bags ranging from 1 to 8 pounds in plain or high-graphic wrap and coded for traceability.
Giro Pack Inc., Vidalia, Ga., makes weighing and bagging machines for a variety of fruits and vegetables and is introducing a new citrus weighing machine this year, said Chris Alvarez, customer service manager
Alvarez said he’s noticed a retail trend to a new version of the traditional net bags.
“When people started using net bags, we saw a lot of header bags with the film at the top,” he said. “But now we’re seeing a lot of retailers move toward a full-wrap pack where the film wraps all the way around the bag.”
Customers have the option of using the film as a marketing device to promote the product with artwork or recipes or to limit the printing and allow the product to sell itself.
Giro Pack offers more than a dozen styles of weighing and bagging machines for items like potatoes, citrus, apple, onions and avocados.
“We offer different style baggers to form different style bags,” he said.
Customers are requesting more individual portion packs, said Jeff Kenyon, spokesman for Automated Packaging Systems Inc., Streetsboro, Ohio.