The use of cotton bags as consumer packages for potatoes


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The use of cotton bags as consumer packages for potatoes
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United States -- Bureau of Agricultural Economics. -- Fruit and Vegetable Division
Park, J. W ( James William ), b. 1890
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ri. .ii.. :..

hshinrton. D. C.
July, 1929

This report i. the ninth of a series rnlatlng

to Utilization of Amertman Cotton, published by the Bursa.,

of Agricultural economics. Others published to dte are's

"A Partial List of Uses of American law Cotton,'

"Cotton Bags in the wholesale Grocery Tradie,'

tarm Uses for Cotton and Its Productsh,

"Cotton Bagging for Cotton,'

"Domestic Kill Consumption of American Cotton by
Grades and Staples,"

"Cotton Bags in the Fertilizer Industry,.

"Cotton Bags and Other Containers in the Wholesale
Grocery Trade,"

"Quality of the Cotton Spun in the United States
(Year ending Ju..y 31, 1928)."

The studies reported in this series arc a part

of a correlated program of research on the Utilization

of American Cotton in which the United States Department

of Agric-lture, the United States Department of

Cornerce, and the Cotton-Textile Institute, Inc., are


SDivision of r.its and Vegetables

Along with the development of standerdization In merchandising food
s, there has been an increased use of the small package to carry
p... aoucht to the conswer. Such staple groceriess as breakfast foods,
.... sugar and molasses are now mostly sold in closed consumer packages.

The idea of merchandising potatoes in small cotton bases has been tried
&a recent years, and during the last season there has been a large increase
Ua the use of this method in packing Idaho potatoes. This practice is of
general interest to the fruit and vegetable industry, bag manufacturers and
eoth4brs. In order to determine the extent to which potatoes are packaged in
small bags and the opinion of the trade in regard to this practice, a survey
Vas =ade by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in March and April 1929.
local representatives of the Division of Fruits and Vegetables of the Bureau
Interviewed wholesalers, Jobbers and retailers in important markets and
shippers in the late-crop potato producing sections in regard to the use of
=all cotton bags in merchandising potatoes during the 1928-1929 season.
the opinions and estimates of the wholesale and retail trade as obtained
through these interviews are summarized in this report.

Idaho Principal State Shipping in Small Bags.

In Idaho there has been a large increase in the use of small bags in
packing potatoes duriimg the 1928-1929 season. To the middle of March it
uas estimated that about 700 cars of potatoes packed in small bags were
shipped from this State, which would amount to over 5 per cent of the
total Idaho shipments to that date.

Only a few scattering shipments in small bags were reported from
Montana, Washington, Michigan and Prince Edward Island, Canada. There
has been a considerable quantity of potatoes shipped in cartons. For
example, Maine shipped from 50 to 75 cars in 15 pound cartons. Some
Idaho potatoes of the large sizes for bkcing purposes have been packed
in cartons or boxes.

Sizes of Bags and Grade and Size of Potato Used.

Various sizes of small bags have been tried, including the 15-lb.,
f0-lb., 25-lb. and 50-lb. sizes. Both cotton and burlap have boen used.
Most of the Idaho small bag shipiipnts have boon in 25-lb. cotton bits.
In the rArkets some dealers believe a 15-lb. bag would be more desirable.
The cost of packing, however, would be greater. On the whole the 25-lb.
beag seems to be a desirable size. In Idaho both the Russet Burbank and
Idaho Bural varieties were packed in small bags. It is generally agreed
by dealers that potatoes for packing in this manner should be TJU. S. No. 1
grade or better. One practice was to sort out the large baking potatoes
weighing 12 ounces or more and to pock the medium sizes in 25-lb. cotton
beogs. The trade in general prefers 6 to 10 ounce sizes for this package,
anad states that the larger potatoes do not pack well in small bag-s.



94 a

A0440 9I

5. -- mw amana 4M4"&t OWc wasA 4%1joy&&a we. ae vssr mte O
only a few eupwersental shipments in this type ofpaciage pwre receiyeCW-

Most Small Ba Stock Packed at hipping Point..

The great majority of potatoes sold In mal bags were packed
container at shipping point, although there has bnn noe repacking at
markets particularly on the Pacific Coast. Argments advanced in va
packing at shipping point rather than at destination aWes that it el81
extra hi.ndling, saves expense including cost of original large sae, at& ..
that closer grading at shipping point results. '

Arguments in favor of repacking at destination are: that a high qaUt
pack is assured because inferior stock including that ehich ma hare dstwfAi
crated in transit can be sorted out; there is no soiling.of cotton baft`gs I::::...
transit; danger of damage from shifting of loads of mall begs is raoveai:-
tho-Agh very little difficulty in this respect was 'reported at receiving


No uniform method of loading is practiced, although most Idaho shinwers
loaded so as to give a clearance of about 6 inches on each side of the car;
the load ir tied by arrangement of bags and after 5 or 6 layers are in place
is rounded off. Car loads of 1400 or 1440, 25-lb. bags of Idaho stock anm
1600, 5S-lb. bags of Montana stock have been reported.


The usual differential in car-lot price between Idaho potatoes in 100
or 120-lb. burlap sacks and those in 25-lb. cotton bags in the 1928-1929
season was reported as 25 cents per cwt; the small bags selling at the
higher price.

In ldahn the 100 or 130-Ib. burlap sacks coat around 11 or 12 cents
each, whercsas the 25-lb. cotton bags cost 5 to 6 cent each. The extra
labor in packing the small bags amounted to 5 to 10 cents per cwt. However,
In csroaring rot-Airns for potatoes in these two types of-packages it should
be kept in mind that the potatoes pAcked in mall bags probably averaged
a little hiher in grade than those packed in large sacks.

Tho 35-lb. bags have been reported from dWfferent cities as retailing
at frcrn 10 to P5 per cent more than the same quantity in bulk. In some in-
ntOr.ceD the small bags have been used as leaders and the differential in
reta'l -rrice has been less than 10 per cent.

Trades' Opinions on Use of Small Bags.

..ero in a dvvicon of opinion among wholesalers, Jobbers and. chain
'. t-rn -irTators as to the merits of cmerchandizing potatoes in small bags.

.'.the. t.e Will 'be e pric ipal type of package for market ing
~th as diseawee with this opinion.
... S:. lncla reasons advanced by the wholesale and retail trade in
Spcki potatoes in small bags are: that it is more convenient to
'Ust potatoes; that the small bag, especially when neatly branded is
tve Consumer package and has advertising value; that potatoes
In this way mnst be better graded than when packed in large sacks;
Jithero will be no loss to the retailer due to a certain percentage of
aIsi stock remaining i the bins as is often the case when the bulk
..... of retailing is used; that the use of a standardized consumer
1::..eB for potatoes is in line with the general movement toward
....oa.. isindlnC In standardized consumer packages.

Ig : Aumsnts against the use of the small bag are: that many consumers
.fer to see the potatoes before buying them; that it adds to the cost;
tihia1.t white cotton bags may become soiled and unattractive in appearance;
'asili:dt deterioration ocuring after packing dute to freezing, sprouting or
ether causes would result in a reaction by consumers against this type of
peU ; .that there would be a tendency for shippers to lower the quality
|O the small bag pack, after it had come into general use, that the season
bingE &lg which this package could be used in shipping potatoes would be limit-
l .O because of danger-of damage from heating in the early fall and from
..:. prp titg in the spring.
... ..... ..s ...e r
.i Most dealers aree that if the small bag pack is to meet with success
||the rade of potatoes used iust be better than the average of potatoes cold
tr large sacks or bulk. Potato prices have beepn__lo hearing the 1928-1929
season during hitch time there isi been a considerable increase in the use
n of the small cotton bag as a consumer package. It is conjectural as to
i what effect, if any, a hither price level for potatoes would have on the use
fi: the mall bag.

The Use of the Small Sotton Bag in. certain Cities 1928-29 Season.

North Atlantic Regln.
BOSTON, MASS. A few cars in 15-lb. cloth bags were received from Prince
hkWard Island. The potatoes were mostly of medium size ani better than U. S.
o0. 1 grade. The best outlet was throrigi the hig.-class grocery stores.

SRINGFIZLD, MASS. Three or four cars were received in small bacs dur-
Ing the last year. Some were in 10-lb. burlap bags and were supposed to be
Maine potatoes. Only one dealer favored the 'ie of the small bag. He had
found the 10-lb, bag most popular with his trade. The chain stores have not
used this package and do not favor its use.

FPDOTInCE, IL I. and NEW HAVE, 0C0227. No small cotton bags as con-
tainers for potatoes were reported in these markets daring the last season.
W YCOBK, 1. Y. Probably more then 100 card of potatoes in small cotton
bags were received direct from producing areas by lew York chain stores this
seamof. DTy were mostly from Idaho although a few cars were frrn Princr Edward
Island. The wholesale and Jobbing trade received only a few small bag nhlpments
from Idaho. hese were mostly in mixed cars with boxed potatoes and met a very

dt a...t

although there were so" 15-1. bags. The goceral profits. is for F
of 5 to f1 ounces in also and of U. S. No. I grae or better. 9Some l
operators think the use of the small bag will increase Ilaow Torki
retailers in this city have not used this package to ay extent* Octa
been used to a considerable extent in merchandising potatoes in JewTo.

BUFAIO, T. One car of Michigan potatoes in 15-lb. bags "I
shipr.enta of Idaho potatoes in 25-lb. and 50-lb. tgo waro'tererevleidi...,i'libl"I
Michigan potatoes were firm, clean, medium stied and mtt all re' F I
U. S. No. 1 grade. They were described by shipper as %selected Miohiiii0r1
toes,".; S. No. 1". The Buffalo chain stores did not handle the Mo H."
potatoe.i as it is their practice to keep the cost as low as possible 8ant'N to.
feature potatoes as a leader selling them slightly above cost. The retllsiii.l||
who purchased these potatoes considered it an experiment and.there IS li3ttlJe1!
interest in obtaining additional supplies in this package. :i

3ARX, US J. No sales of potatoes in small bags were reported : .. ...
.," I

T:Rnro, 17. J. Only a few 25-lb. bags of Idaho potatoes were recett.
in Trenton.

PXRIAIfIPHIA,. PA. About 30 ears of Idaho potatoes in small bags were
porter. These were mostly in 25-lb. bags. The class- of stock preferred far
sale in small bags in Philadelphia is uniformly graded medium to large sized
potatoes of better grade than U. S. No. 1. Most of the small bag shipments
have been handled through chain stores and wholesalers and Jobbers who han-
dled them foand a limited outlet. ,

HAnRISURG, PA. No small bag receipts were reported.

.IlM2S-LAIS, PA. The small cotton bag was not used in Wilkes-3arre
or Scranton.

PIZ.SBj'RWH, PA. Only a few small bag shipments in cars with other
container.c were reported on the Pittsburgh market. These were in 25-lb.
bacs. The demand for the small bag type of package was very slow. In
general, it is not popular with Pittsburgh retailers.

North Central Region.

CLSV.iA'D, OHIO. About 15 full car loads of potatoes in small sacks an
approxL.ately an equal number of cars containing both small and large sacks
were received. Those receipts wore all from Idaho and were mostly in 25-lb.
bars .. thr,-'.t there were some of the 15-lb. size. Both cotton and burl=
bar. wore -..sed. There was some preference for the cotton bags because of
apper-Lt-aco. The preference was for medium to large sized stock, fairly
clean and of U. S. No. 1 grade. The only varieties in these shipments
were .-3wset B3.rbnn]w and Idaho Rurals. The wholesale and Jobbing trade "
se rn to f.vor the 25-lb. sacks because they are easy to handle, make a
c d nppear.-unce and because the potatoes are generally better graded than
ttv.,)e Ln larcor size sacks. However, the chain stores in general prefer
thq r,,r:lar large sized sacks for potatoes as the use of these enables them
t. .npl at a lower price wn.ld be possible if small bags were used.

1S11N1S, 0O10. fl a1We of idaho b .kiqgpotatofl In sail bags were
Bn D1 Ub.. !Mrewd. &11 handled b .eq40 store. and were re-
..... k'' ors public*

1t have awed el ad w*1 faverab4L receive by the public.
tad. wholnalera bave nt bean induoed to bandle tlhe smail bags

Orx: O xozw, 0=IO. About 5 per cent ofthe Idiho potatoes received.
$Jnnti this eaon were .in mall cotton bags. These were Russets
i 3 b. 1 grade Delers tlnk the popularity of the small bag will
B..... Roth chain and nednt retailers favor it as easy to
*a-e for both dealer and oonur.

: COUUU==, O O, There Ias a lLinited quantity of Idaho baking potatoes
.i.. t ; 10 and 15-lb. bags.
..... ... ..
'i:., 2.ITR MICH. About 35 to 40 cars of Idaho potatoes in small bags
(S5-b. size) were used. in Detroit thi. season. The opinion of the majority
| of. the trade was that for this type of package, stock should be better than
V. 3- No. 1 grade and.about 7 to 12 ounces in weight, The wholesale and
Jobbing trade in general was somewhat doubtful about the success of this
package with Michigan, Wisconsin or Minnesota stock, as they believed farmers
would be left with the poorer stock on their hands if the better quality were
S,Pued to pack in mall bags. Some chain store operators thought there was
a. goo0. market for selected stock of uniform size, but that thero was a
I:tai endcy for the small bag receipts to be of poorer quality toward the end
|1of the season with a consequent slackening of demand.
I JDI.AEAPOLIS,.ID. About 3 cars of Idaho Russet Burbarts in 25-1b.

Sbags were received, These were selected bakers. The general opinion of the
trade is that good table stock put up in 15 or 25-lb. sacks would be desirable.

CHICAGO, ILL. About 5Q cars in small bags were received. The bags
varied in capacity from 10-lbs. to 50-lbs. Practically all were from Idaho
and they were mostly Basset Burbanks. The consensus of opinion in the trade
l is that potatoes packed in small bags should be better than U. S. No. 1
grade. There is a division of opinion as to what the trend will be in
regard to the use of small bags. Some chain store operators and up-to-date
independent retailers like the idea and think the 25-lb. bag is a popular
asie and will meet the housewife demand, but the small retail grocers show
a decided preference for the old method of handling potatoes.

MIIAZMs, WIS. A number of cars of Idaho RuSset potatoes in neatly
branded 25-lb. cotton bags were sold on the Uilwarikee market this season.
Both the 25-lb. and 50-lb. bags are growing in popularity although cotton
begs were used only for the 25-lb. size. Both the wholesale and- retail trade
think the use of small bags will have a tendency to increase quantity sales.
P MIEWAPOLIS, MIX About 10 cars of Mnntana potatoes in ?i-lb, cotton
bags were reported on the Minneapolis market. The trade as a whole is not
enthusiastic about the use of the small bag. Some dealers have refused to
bhandle'potatoes packed in this manner, while others report a rather limited
demand, Soame retailers like the idea and expect to uso more next season.
&iimec.of the higher class retailers feel that the 15-lb. bag would te better
aqi: ted to their ias!nft-aec than the S5-lb. bag.

arF wgwa m V I n w@* &waw is sumV VRAw suq.Rao .5Jiiri.
preferavnae is for potatoes e&gjjjg5 6 to 10 owaseeo XI thf op AILn o
wholesalers and chain store operators there i a very bright future
the small lg an a pacaknag for potatoes, but they age that only Potit"mil
of qualityy should be packed in the small bs p.

XANSAS CITY, MO.' In this market there has been a few sales of Imbs
potatoes in small bags. The 25-lb. beg was the size of cotton bag sosbtl qi
used. The R to 12 ounce potatoes are preferable for this type of package *blll
in this market. The opinion of the trade i1 divided an to the atamntae s ifll
of the scaal1 bag as a package for potatoes. Chain stores are not usig m
small packages to any extent and the general feeling among then is that ,;!
the p-blic wants cheap potatoes, and that shipments in large sacks or bulk |
are pro.erable because less expensive. :

OA3A. MR:R. There were some receipts of Idaho useet potatoes in
small br8s. Both the 20-lb. and 25-lb. bag have been used. The 20-lb.
sise is sli(.tly preferred. The preference in Cabs is for burlap in-
stead of nhite cotton as a material for the 20-lb. and 25-lb. bags. The
probable reason is that burlap does not show the dirt as much as white
cotton does.

Far Western Region.

=2.E, COLO. Only a few Idaho potatoes in 25-lb. cotton bags were Oan
the Denver market. There is practically no demand in Denver for the small bag*.

SALT LAEl CITY, UTAH. A few shipments of very good quality, medium
sized Idaho potatoes in branded 25-lb. white cotton bags were received in
Salt La.e City. These potatoes received favorable concnent, probably de
to the fact that they were generally of better grade than those sold in
bulk. Wholesalers and Jobbers have not worked up much enthusiasm over
the use of the small bag in this market. Chain stores have found that
many of their clstormers prefer potatoes packaged in small bags because
they feel that they are getting bettor potatoes than those bought in bulk.

PO 'LUmID, o0 B0. A half car load of potatoes in 50-lb. cotton bags
was reported nn the Portland market this season. The trade received this
type of par-.'age favorably.

XS ANGLESI, CALIF. Probably 40 or 50 cars of Idaho Russets in small
cotton bars were received in Loe Angeles. This is two or three times the
q-antity received last seianson inr. thib type of paccka. The 25-lb. size
was prn.:t ically the only cotton bag 'iced. The trade states that modivum
n1z'td ,tock of U. S. Vo. 1 grade io the only kind of stock suitable for
pae -Ing in rvaall b.tA3. The whnJesale trade thinks that the demand for
p-tartoo- In rmral bar., tho'irfi rtill limited, is growing. The chain
ntrres in Tor Argelos appear to be pushing the small bag idea more than
t`.e :-ali independent stores. There was a considerable quantity repacked
Ir.t .:r 1 Ib-g in nLos Angreles.

s1 F.02!;I3CO, %ALIF. Approximately 15 or 20 cars of potatoes packed
r,,n batvs worn on the San Franclsco rari:et this season. Most of these
wrc :r ,r. I.,ah.n ajtho.-,rh a few cars wore from Washington and Oregon. Most


or 09: ""M ma1 be. shipMnts Were the mile bags. A few cars from
O:rq swam tA 1.-lb and 15-lb. 'is. Only aedium sised potatoes should
i use woift, lot the 10-lb. and 15-lb. .Iid bagi in the opinion of
em irnslMOo, alas. S, he aW ain store operators think the small beg will
IIIbe tU prevailing type of VpA& Some wholesalers are not favorable
| tward thi type of packe,.

South Atlantic and South Central Region.

MIEflMI, KBM There were no cotton bags on this market. The trade
to:ptical an. to the success of such a package.

W ISU ON D. C. Five ars of Idaho Russet Burbanks were received
pasIM In 25-lb. cotton bags and were handled by chain stores. The demand for
t.fil| package ws better in suburban stores and in districts where customers
Suliis:stly se antomobilse ix marketing as compared with districts where
ates usuallyy walk to the stores and carry their purchases home. Unless
airl exceptionally well graded potatoes are packed in the small bwgs, the opinion
I as expressed that there will be little if any greater demand for the
potatoes in sall bags than for the bulk stock.

[+.OIOBL3, TV. No potatoes in small cotton bags were received.
:iLAN J MTr A, GA. One car load in small cotton bags was reported and the
||p1 auger ient was not entirely successful.

S JACL.SOBVILL, FLM. There were no small bag receipts.

L:: ..... ISlLM,-KY; Eleven cars of Idaho potatoes in small bags (25-lb.
1 size) were reported for the season on the Louisville market. Eight of these
Uwee handled by the chain stores and three by the Jobbing trade. In addition
There was probably 40 to 45 cars of Idaho and Minnesota potatoes received in
2 .6-b. and 50-lb. burlap bags.

EDIPHIS, TRN. Only one car was received in 25-lb. cotton bags and
was dumped into bins by chain store receivers. The trade does not look with
favor on the use of small containers for potatoes.

0W L OIEANS, LA. No small bag potato receipts were reported on this

OM WORTH, TEXAS. Three cars of potatoes were receive in Fort Worth
in 10-lb., 25-lb. and 50-lb. cotton bags. The firz -r cc-s r-id. radily
on account of the novelty of the package, bit thc >,*. -r r.j .'j.
There was less profit to the wholesaler on the .;'.. .,n .:ri re : t
was claimed that it required more tales effort' to e-t1 ca :'Vrt- ir. 1, *Lity
of potatoes in small bags than in large ones. It :r'-" .fr t t t. .-. .thod
generally used by chain stores of putting up ten or f1:tr"... t ,'-i.nds f:
potatoes in paper bags which can be easily examined by the cuitorar has
its advantage over the small closed bag.
H=STON, TEXAS. There were no receipts in small cottcri bagc. A few
ehitmnts came in 25-lb. or 50-lb. burlap bags which met with a slow sale.

|||rSAB AVMOIO, TEXAS. There were no small bag receipts.


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