FRESNO, CA — Export markets are a major outlet for fresh California grape
sales, consuming for typically around one-third of the state's roughly 95
million-box annual crop.
Last year, total exports were a little over 34 million boxes (19-pound
equivalents), with Canada accounting for about one-third of that volume and
Asian countries constituting 38 percent of all grape exports from California.
Because of the importance of export markets to the industry, the California
Table Grape Commission has long put a strong emphasis on market
development programs in importing countries.
With supermarkets playing an increasingly significant role in produce
distribution in many developing countries, the commission has been
increasing the amount of attention it gives to working with retail chains in
"We’ve got an expanded and increased retailer promotion program this year,
especially in Asia," Susan Day, vice president of international marketing for the
commission, told The Produce News during a Sept. 22 interview.
Five Asian countries are in the top 10 export markets for California grapes,
with China and Indonesia ranking in second and fourth place, she noted.
Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam have all seen “tremendous growth” in the past
There are many retail chains that have operations in multiple countries, she
said. “So we are targeting those on a regional basis as well as on a local level.”
Because of that, “we have an expanded program … with those multi-national
retail chains,“ particularly in Southeast Asia and China.
With the preponderance of the state’s grape crop yet to be shipped, this year is
“shaping up really well for promotions,” she said. “Those promotions are
primarily working with the retailers in an effort to create activities in the store
that attract the consumers to buy California grapes, and buy more of them
more often and in bigger quantities.” Those activities include helping the
retailers build attractive, “nicely merchandised” displays and giving consumers
samples of the fruit.
“That program is ongoing, and that is a huge effort on the ground,” said Ms.
Day, who had just recently returned from a marketing trip to Asia. “We have our
representatives in all these countries. They have teams of people who are out
meeting with the retailers on a regular basis, merchandising the fruit,
reporting back to us, helping with the displays and helping with each
opportunity that we can possibly do to get that consumer to buy California
grapes and pull that volume through the retail sector.”
The commission has increased its retail focus not just in Asian markets but in
the United Kingdom as well, she said. “We have a lot more activities going on in
the U.K. with retailers now. In the past, they have been reluctant to allow too
much activity in their stores, but the last two to three years, that has really
changed and they are looking at all kinds of promotional ways to move
California grapes through their stores. We are doing some in-store activities in
a lot of those store groups in the U.K., which we weren’t able to do before.
That is new for us.”
In the past, “we have done some on-site … promotions,” offering a trip to
California as part of a competition, she said. “But this year, it looks like we will
be doing a lot of in-store activities using promotional materials” and using
demonstrators to offer grape samples to consumers.
In New Zealand this year, “we are on television with one of the retailers,”
participating in a program in which a chef presents a product in television
commercials. “We have not done this before. We are doing that in two bursts of
television advertising this year in New Zealand,” Ms. Day said.
“This year, we have really fine-tuned our program to target the retailers much
more strongly,” she said. “We are trying to work in every possible area we can
with the retailers to help those retailers move the grapes to the end consumer,
which obviously results in larger volumes being shipped.”
Foodservice is also getting attention in export markets. In the Philippines this
year, the commission is working with the hotel and restaurant sector, which is
an expanding market there, Ms. Day said. “We are doing a restaurant
promotion” with 168 restaurants in seven chains that “are going to promote
California grape smoothie drinks in the restaurants.” The promotion will run
for three months and will be publicized in the national press, giving
consumers as well as restaurants “an idea of how to expand their usage of