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SGS boosts grape acreage 40 percent, introduces stand-up bag

TRAVER, CA — “We’ve increased our acreage about 40 percent across the board, all varieties,” said Louis Scattaglia, managing partner of Scattaglia Growers & Shippers LLC, here, in an interview with The Produce News July 7. Much of that acreage will be in production this year, with “the balance coming on next year.”

With the new acreage coming on line this year, the company expects “about a 30 percent increase in volume over last yea” for the 2011 season, he said.

“All of which is in response to strong customer demand,” added Dave Parker, marketing director.

SGS will be offering its grapes in a new consumer pack style this year, Mr. Scattaglia said. It is a display-ready 1.5-pound fixed-weight “pouch bag” with a gusseted base so the back can stand vertically on the display.

The bag has high clarity so the grapes can be seen clearly through it, and the top of the bag will be printed with high-quality graphics, featuring the company’s “Sun Disk” label, which was scheduled to be unveiled shortly.

The new pack style “complements our bag and clamshell program” and is “sort of a hybrid between the two,” Mr. Scattaglia said. “It is a little bit stronger” than traditional bagged grapes but contains 66 percent less plastic than a clamshell.

“So far, showing it to our retail partners, we are getting a really good response from them, and we have high hopes for a lot of volume being packed in that pack style. This is the first season that we are offering it.”

The company will also be introducing “new box styles for all of our grapes,” Mr. Scattaglia said. The graphics and color are new, and the box itself “is a stronger box. We feel that will really help in shipping.” The new box design was scheduled to be unveiled in mid-August.

The new packaging and the new box appearance “will be good for merchandising the fruit in the stores,” said Mr. Parker. “But I think the strongest part of our marketing is the production of the grape. It is Craig Calandra’s influence on the quality of the grapes — his cultural practices. That is what we tout [to customers] in the grape program, and the proof is in the buying.”

Mr. Calandra, a viticulturist, is a partner in SGS and is in charge of all of the company’s grape production.

“The ‘Sun Disk’ label is gathering a following,” Mr. Scattaglia said. “We feel, based on feedback from our retail partners,” that the label’s acceptance comes from “growing a very large, high-sugar-content grape, and that is due to Craig Calandra’s practices. He has made a concerted effort to grow the right varieties and to grow them a little bit larger than they have been grown in the past, and to wait and be very patient at harvest to get the highest possible sugar in the grape. That has really paid off in a strong demand for our label.”

SGS is in the grape business year-round. “We start with the Peruvian season, move into Chile, move into Mexico, and then transition into California,” Mr. Scattaglia said.

That transition was currently underway, and “there is a small gap between the finish up of Mexican grapes and the California deal, there is no question about that,” he said.

In the company’s own grape program, “the quality looks exceptionally good” but “we are running about 10 days later, it appears, than last year, for the harvest,” so the expectation was to start Summer Royal black seedless around July 15 to 20 and Flame seedless around July 20 to July 25, he said.

In the days “leading up to the 20th and 25th, supplies will be light,” he said. “But volume should kick in the week of the 25th out of California, and from that point forward it should be a normal harvest year.”

SGS expected to start Princess in early August, Crimson seedless around the first of September, and “both our Scarlet Royal red seedless variety and Autumn Royal black seedless variety” around Oct. 1, he said. Also, “we will have two new additions around that time period — a green seedless Luisco, and a little bit later into October a green seedless Autumn King.” Then starting around the first of November, “we will transition to our SGS Red variety which will carry us through to about the first week of January.”