Because the Coachella Valley grape deal usually gets under way around May 15, grape supplies for the Memorial Day pull, especially for East Coast buyers, are usually few and far between.
“Not this year,” said Rob Spinelli, who sits on the sales desk at Anthony Vineyards Inc., which is headquartered in Bakersfield, CA, but has grape production in the Coachella Valley as well as the San Joaquin Valley.
“Some people are going to get started at the end of this week (April 21-27) with many others starting next week (April 28),” he continued. “By May 12, we should have very good volume coming out of Coachella.”
And that will be just in time for the start of the Memorial Day weekend, which runs from May 24-26. Spinelli told The Produce News on April 21 that it appeared Chilean grapes would be out of the marketplace by the first full week of May, paving the way for a good start to the California deal.
“It doesn’t look like there will be an overlap,” he said. “Last years Crimsons (out of Chile) lasted into June. That’s not going to happen this year.”
As far as Anthony’s own production, Spinellli said the firm will have conventional Sugraone green grapes and Flame Seedless red grapes during the last week of April.
The company’s organic production of those two varieties will start in the first week of May for Flames and the second week for Sugraones. Anthony has been offering organic grapes to its customers since 2002 and added desert production of organic varieties since about 2009.
“We now can offer an organic program from May through December,” he said.
Because they can offer a consistent flow of good-quality grapes in several different varieties, Spinelli said sales have been very strong. “Overall the organic category is growing by 30-40 percent and the grape category is even stronger. We’ve seen sales gains of 50 percent.”
Spinelli indicated that the organic grape category could grow even faster at retail if consistent supplies could be found 12 months of the year. He said that is not the case as Chilean grapes need to be treated, which takes them out of the organic category.
He said Peru has shipped a few organic grapes and South Africa is trying but the shipping protocol is complicated. He believes that if the customer can find consistent quality of organic grapes day in and day out, week in and week out, they feel confident in making that purchase and becoming regular customers.
“That’s the big thing for us. We have been able to keep the pipeline full (for almost eight months of the year)” and increased sales have been the result.