Article Preview: Grocery Totes
Below is a roughly direct transcription of an email interview I did with Christopher Duffy, senior vice president of marketing for Bag Makers, for an article I'm writing on reusable grocery totes for our September issue. I hope you find it interesting, and if you'd like to know more about grocery totes, don't forget to check back here in September for the full article!
Promo Marketing: Overall, is there a preferred size for tote bags that are intended to carry groceries? What about materialization/thickness/overall construction/etc.?
Christopher Duffy: In general, the grocery stores sell a tote sized at 12W X 8D X 13H. Our industry sells this size, however, it has also adopted one size slightly larger at 13W X 10D X 15H. For the smaller tote, 80 GSM is the norm material thickness. Bag Makers offers ours at 100 GSM as a more durable quality feature. Most of the larger sized totes are at 100 GSM, however a few are available at the 80 GSM. The GSM (grams per square meter) is an measure of the material's "density" and directly relates to its strength, durability and carrying capacity.
As an add-on feature, nearly all of the bags available include a bottom board insert for more stability. Sometimes the board is a piece of cardboard with a sewn polypropylene cover, but increasingly the boards are a solid black piece of polyethylene.
PM: Is there anything new or innovative in the the sub-genre of grocery totes that you'd like to talk about? (new ways to affix straps, easy-to-clean fabrics, etc.)?
CD: The new trends for this style of bag seems to be the addition of small value-added features, such as pen loops or a pocket added between the straps (for coupons, etc.). Several suppliers have started changing the look a bit by color-blocking the bag. For example, you might see a red front and back, with a black gusset and handles, just for a bit of added flair. Still a few other companies are offering the tote made using recycled P.E.T. (recycled water bottles) or a laminated form of polypropylene. But these materials greatly add to the cost and many end-buyers are used to the low $0.99 price the grocery stores sell at.
PM: What would be some good ways to ensure a client that a given tote is durable enough to carry heavy loads of groceries through multiple uses? Beyond filling the bag with rocks and saying "look how strong this bag is," are there specific construction details distributors should know to look for/be able to talk about, like the quality of stitching along the handles, bag thickness, strength of the base, etc.?
CD: A) Take a look at the GSM. This measure directly relates to the bag's strength and durability. The higher the GSM, the denser the material per square meter and the greater the carrying capacity.
B) The stitch count per inch on sewing the seams and handles is important. Polypropylene is essentially a larger sheet of plastic so too many stitches can actually be a bad thing. Too many stitches actually put too many needle holes in the material and can actually sheer the material.
PM: Are there any special compliance laws or product safety issues for these types of bags since they're meant to handle food? Are there any laws/product safety issues about tote bags in general that distributors should know?
CD: While not necessarily considered a "children's product" for inclusion in the CPSIA legislation (Bag Makers still tests to these standards, however), these bags are subject to other laws such as California Proposition 65 and TiPPA (Toxics in Packaging Prevention Act). As such, we test for multiple chemicals including lead, chromium, mercury and phthalates. Since the food they carry are generally pre-packaged items with no direct contact to the food, they are not subject to FDA regulations.
Polypropylene, by nature, is essentially lead-free so we don't believe there are any inherent safety issues involved with these bags.
Thanks for reading everyone, and until next week!
MONDAY MIKE FACT: There is a farmer's market by new apartment that sells all kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables. I've been going pretty consistently since I moved in, but mostly to purchase fancy local cheeses (this week was an old bay cheddar). Depending on your opinions on heart health and overall gluttony, I am either doing farmer's markets incredibly wrong or incredibly right.