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Bravante packing premium table grapes in ‘Sunkist’ label

Bravante Produce in Reedley, CA, has been a Sunkist packer and shipper “for a couple of years now,” packing citrus from its own ranches in the “Sunkist” label, according to George Bravante, managing partner, who also sits on the Sunkist board of directors.

Now, starting this summer, Bravante’s premium table grapes will also carry the “Sunkist” brand.

Russ Hanlin, president of Sunkist Growers Inc. in Sherman Oaks, CA, announced in a March 15 press release that Sunkist, which has been a leading marketer of citrus for nearly 120 years, would begin also to provide “premium ‘Sunkist’-branded table grapes,” initially from premium table grape growers that were already Sunkist-affiliated citrus houses as well.

They are Richard Bagdasarian Inc. in Mecca, CA, and Bravante Produce, both “well-respected organizations” that produce “high quality fruit,” Mr. Hanlin said in the release.

“Between Sunkist and ourselves, there is a lot of synergy in branding our overall program ‘Sunkist’ with the ‘Bravante’ label that we have built over the years,” Mr. Bravante said in a June 8 interview with The Produce News.

New “Sunkist” labels and artwork have been designed and produced for all of Bravante’s grape packaging. The labels have the Sunkist name on top, and underneath, the words, “Bravante Vineyards Premium Table Grapes,” thus optimizing the name recognition of both brands.

“Sunkist has got such a great reach, both domestically and internationally,” he continued. With the commitment that both companies have to quality, “we think we can put together a very strong long-term super-premium grape program,” Mr. Bravante said.

Bravante Produce already had “a great program” in premium table grapes without Sunkist, he said, but “we just think it will enhance our program.”

Mr. Bravante added that he likes “the idea of being all in with Sunkist. We like the guys. We like what they do. They like what we do. It is a good marriage between the two of us.”

Sunkist’s customers all buy grapes, and “they all want consistency,” Mr. Bravante said. “They all want to know the fruit [they buy] is going to be of the highest quality,” and they know that if it has the “Sunkist” label on it, the fruit will be “very high-quality fruit that matches up with the quality of Sunkist historically.”

Bravante has, in the grape category, “what these retailers want and need,” he said. So what is being done now is to take “our expertise and our high-quality farming practices and packing practices and high-quality fruit” and make it “available to the stable of Sunkist customers.”

Bravante can, at present, supply only “a small percentage of Sunkist customers,” those that “really want this to start out. But we are going to grow the program to get a lot bigger over the next couple of years, probably, as we can find fruit that matches up with” the specifications customers need.

Bravante Produce grows 11 varieties of table grapes, according to Ron Wikum, category manager. They are Flame, Sweet Scarlet, Scarlet Royal, Crimson, Vintage Red, Red Globe, Thompson, Princess, Autumn King, Autumn Royal and Summer Royal.

“Our expected start date [this year] is sometime between the second and third week of July, of course depending on weather,” he said. “Everything is pushed back.”

The early season will start with Flames and Summer Royals. Thompsons and Princess will both start around the second week in August, he said.

Sales will be handled by the Bravante Produce sales staff in Reedley, which consists of Mr. Wikum; Carly Rodgers; Michael Keeline, citrus category manager who helps with grape sales during the grape season; and Patti Martinez, sales coordinator.