VISALIA, CA — They're big. They’re beautiful. They’re crunchy. They’re sweet.
"What else can I say?" said Darrel Fulmer, managing partner at Sun Fresh
International LLC, here, when asked what characteristics, besides their
lateness, make the proprietary Blanc seedless table grape variety special.
One bite into one of the big, beautiful, sweet, crisp berries from a bunch in a
clamshell that had been sitting on Mr. Fulmer’s desk for two days validated
“We have found that as we compete at the end of the Thompson seedless
season, we only have to make the first sale,” Mr. Fulmer told The Produce
News Oct. 6. “Once the customers get them and the consumers taste them,
the retailers have to satisfy their customers” by ordering more. “So basically
the first sale is tough, and after that it is pretty easy.”
A product flyer from the company, quoting the variety’s developer, Anton
Caratan, actually does add some detail: “The Blanc seedless has a crisp
texture coupled with a taste that starts off with a sweet vanilla streak and
ends with a zesty Granny Smith apple finish.” It also has “unbelievably long
Mr. Caratan, a partner in Anton Caratan & Son in Delano, CA, is also owner of
the “Pristine” registered trademark that, according to company legal
documents, is utilized “to identify grapes corresponding to the 'Blanc
“Pristine” is not the name of the variety, Mr. Fulmer emphasized.
Sun Fresh and two other companies — Delano Farms and Four Star Sales, both
in Delano — have been licensed to market the Blanc seedless grape variety
within the continental United States and Canada, and the three companies
work together to coordinate the marketing, according to Mr. Fulmer.
Sun Fresh markets all of Caratan’s production, and Delano Farms and Four
Star are licensed to grow and pack as well as to market the grapes.
The variety has been in commercial production for about four years, with
volume increasing each year and several thousand acres planted.
“This year, we think there will be ... in the domestic market close to 2.5
million boxes,” Mr. Fulmer said. “Next year, there could be 3.5 [million] to 4
The harvest for the late-season green (or white) seedless variety starts in late
September and continues to the first of November. “But the real marketing
window is October, November and half of December,” he said. Because the
variety is harvested late in the season, “all of the vineyards are covered with
heavy-duty plastic to protect against rain.”
A large percentage of the grapes “are harvested in totes, put in cold storage
and packed to order” in-house in clamshells, Mr. Fulmer said. “All three
companies have in-house packing facilities.” The group’s philosophy “is to
have as fresh a pack as possible for the customers through the end of the
marketing period. We feel that by having our value-added packing facilities,
all three companies in conjunction” can accomplish that objective.
“In this day and age, to satisfy the retail trade, you have to have fresh
product, it has got to be eye appealing for the public, and it’s got to have
eating quality,” he said. “We feel that this [product]“ meets all of those criteria.
Currently “we have several retailers that are taking significant volumes,” he
said. Promotional programs are client-specific, but “we have done a lot of
internal promotion,” and those programs have included “sampling in
cooperation with retailers.”
Outside the continental United States and Canada, Sun Fresh has an exclusive
license to market and distribute the Blanc seedless variety of grapes produced
in the United States.
Sun Fresh, which was formed in 1999 by Mr. Fulmer and some partners from
South America, is part of the Vidaurri group of companies, which have
locations throughout Latin America and which are involved in production and
international marketing of a wide assortment of produce commodities.
Caratan has licensed to Polar Fruit International — Sun Fresh’s sister company
in Chile — the exclusive rights to produce and market Blanc seedless grapes
produced outside the United States.
Some of that fruit will be sent to the U.S. market beginning next year, and “it
will be a major import variety from Chile within the next five years,” Mr.