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"In January I look for supermarkets to begin promoting Chilean grapes, and the fruit is excellent this year," William Kopke, vice president of Wm. H. Kopke Jr. Inc. in Lake Success, NY, said Dec. 29. “So far quality is excellent. We are very pleased that way.”

Asked to be more specific about when “promotable volumes” would begin, Mr. Kopke replied that retailers “will start sometimes promoting without asking us. All of a sudden there will be an ad in [the] paper at a high retail.” But generally, “I guess it will begin by mid-January.”

He said that in December, “there has still been a lot of California fruit around. So some retailers chose to switch to Chilean fruit, and some stayed with the California varieties, so there were a lot of choices in December. However, Copiapo is very late, so fruit is several weeks later than last year” coming out of Chile. “By January, all the supermarkets will have transitioned over to Chile. So there will be periods of shortages of fruit early on — as is the case every year.”

Mr. Kopke said that many in the industry were surprised by the volume of California fruit that was still in the market. The industry word on the street had been that California was done shipping its Crimsons, “then I see Crimsons in stores,” he said. “They still had fruit.” At the same time, “You have full-color Flames from Chile. It's hard to beat that fresh-crop fruit.”

Kopke’s plan for the Chilean season is “to continue to try to supply the highest quality fruit in the most consistent way we can to the customers and do the best job we can. We will have consistent supplies of grapes, stone fruit, apples and pears,” he declared. “We try to deliver a full line of high- quality produce and try to deliver to anyone looking for high quality.” This involves not only retail customers but also those in the foodservice industry.

Mr. Kopke said that it is difficult to predict his firm’s Chilean volume for 2010-11. “Every year it’s hard to know. Over the past years, it’s been growing. I would say it probably would grow at the same rate it’s been growing.”

The firm in the summer of 2010 was again involved in shipping Chilean oranges into North America. The second year of the orange deal “went well,” he said. “The customers got to know fruit better this year, and the response was excellent — to clementines and the oranges.”

Mr. Kopke said that “it is too early to talk” about the Chilean citrus crop for the summer of 2011 other than to say, “In our program, we have oranges and clementines. We are in that deal, and we like it very much because Chile does such a terrific job. The Chileans are a pleasure to work with and do a great job. Citrus is a nice commodity.”

He added, “I would say supermarkets already know this, but Chile is continually reinvesting and experimenting with all kinds of ways to deliver the freshest-possible product. Supermarkets see that. So I would like to give them [the Chileans] the credit they deserve — in particular, our suppliers.”

Mr. Kopke concluded, “We have a new executive here, Michael Meyers. He will work closely with me, my father and brother.” Mr. Meyers, who came from the apparel business, joined the firm in October as director of business development.

William Kopke’s father, Peter Kopke Sr., is president of the firm, and William’s brother, Peter Kopke Jr., is a vice president.