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Pandol Bros. continues to increase production of Sweet Celebration

Sweet Celebration is a new proprietary red seedless table grape variety from International Fruit Genetics that is being offered by Pandol Bros. Inc. in Delano, CA.

Pandol Bros. introduced the variety to the market last year on a commercial scale, and the “big news” from the company this year is a continuing increase in the volume of that variety, according to John Pandol, a director of the corporation.

015-CalGrapes-PandolBros-JoJohn Pandol, director of Delano, CA-based Pandol Bros. said the company is continuing to increase the volume of its Sweet Celebration red seedless table grape variety from International Fruit Genetics.While the variety is not exclusive to Pandol, Bros., Pandol told The Produce News in July 2012, “we have a lot of it, where no one else really has very much of it yet.” Pandol Bros. made “a big splash” with Sweet Celebration at Asia Fruit Logistica in 2011, and “we introduced it in a big way in Asia and around the Pacific” and to “certain U.S. retailers.”

Last year, the company made its first big push with the variety to U.S. retailers.

The variety has “a very low acid finish in the taste,” Pandol said. “It tends to get a large berry size and at least in our area it tends to be a bright pink,” rather than the burgundy color of some red grape varieties. “The sweet taste with no tannic after finish is really an interesting taste characteristic,” he said.

This year, Pandol Bros. expects to start shipping Sweet Celebration around the second week of August, continuing through most of September, Pandol told The Produce News July 11.

The company will be packing the Sweet Celebration grapes “in a combination of pouch bags, standard bags and clamshells, all with QR codes … with the intention of establishing a link from the consumer to the grower.” The QR code enables consumers to access a video “of my brothers, the farmers. Matt and Andrew tell in their own words why they think [Sweet Celebration] is a really great grape.”

In the rest of its grape program, Pandol said, “we are like the rest of the world. We are still trying to find the place of the high-clarity pouch bags in the grape world.”

Initially, the pouch bags just seemed to be cannibalizing clamshell business, he said, but now it seems that “certain supermarkets are having great success with it.”

In addition to stimulating sales, the pouch bag has had the effect of reducing shrink, Pandol continued.

The main reason seems to be that it eliminates the practice of stacking bags of grapes several layers on top of each other.

“The California Grape Commission, in their merchandising guide, for years has recommended never stacking grapes more than two high,” yet “routinely we see cases where they are stacked three, four, five, even six high and there is juice on the bottom and gnats flying around.”

Where they are being used, the stand-up bag seems to be eliminating the practice of stacking too deep, he said, although generally those retailers that are going to the stand-up bags “were not the worst offenders. They tended to be better merchandisers” to begin with, he said.

There are various hypotheses as to why stand-up bags are doing such a good job of driving demand, Pandol said. “Some people attribute it to the graphics, some to the clarity of the plastic,” and some to the physical stand-up nature of the bag subliminally telling people to pick it up.

But the “great increases in sales” many retailers experienced last year may not be due to the bags at all, or perhaps only partly so, Pandol conjectured.

“Cause and effect is never clear in these situations.” Certainly, retailers enjoyed some fantastic sales during the 2012 California grape season.

Those increases may have been due to one or a combination of those three characteristics of the pouch bags, “or it could have been the grapes were really good last year.” Perhaps all of those factors contributed.