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Crown Jewels adds several varieties to mix, introduces new grape label

FRESNO, CA — As with many grape shippers in California’s San Joaquin Valley, Crown Jewels Produce Co., here, continues to expand its offerings with the addition of several recently developed table grape varieties.

“Each year, we keep picking up some of the new varieties, like Vintage Red, Sweet Scarlet and Scarlet Royal,” said Atomic Torosian, managing partner. Those are all red seedless varieties.

Also, “We have a few Luiscos that we are going to ship this year. And we have more Autumn King available this year,” he said. Autumn King and Luisco are both green seedless varieties.

In addition, Crown Jewels growers also have “a couple of new red varieties” planted that will not be in production this year, he said. “I think next year we may get a few.” He did not name them.

Crown Jewels works with various grape growers “all up and down the valley,” Mr. Torosian said. “We have three or four growers in Kern County. We have growers in the Selma/Fowler area. We have growers in Reedley, and we finish up in Madera. They all do their own packing. They all field pack,” and the grapes “are all shipped out of different locations around the valley.” Most of them pack in the “Crown Jewels” label, he said.

“We also have a new [grape] label this year,” he continued. It is “King’s Taste,” a grower label from the Sacramento, CA, area that has previously been used for pears, and this year, some of Crown Jewels’ grape growers will pack grapes in that label. “It kind of ties in” with the “Crown Jewels” theme, he said.

When Mr. Torosian talked to The Produce News July 12, Crown Jewels was one day from beginning the 2012 grape season in the San Joaquin Valley. “We are going to start our first grapes out of Central California tomorrow,” he said. Typically, the grapes from that area start around July 4, and “sometimes sooner. But with the cool spring we had, everything is running late. But we are starting Flames tomorrow and Summer Royals on Monday,” he said.

“We just finished our Mexico grape deal yesterday, so there is … absolutely no overlap, which is different than what we are used to,” he said. In fact, “there is a gap,” which has resulted in higher-than-usual opening pricing for the San Joaquin Valley deal.

In all, Crown Jewels expects to ship “somewhere between 1.3 [million] and 1.4 million boxes of grapes out of the Central Valley” this season. That volume will represent “a broad spectrum of varieties,” Mr. Torosian said. “We ship a lot of Flames. We still ship some Thompson seedless.” Crimson is “a big variety for us.” Princess, Red Globe and Autumn Royal are other important varieties for the company. Then there are all of the newer varieties.

Crown Jewels packs the grapes primarily in 19-pound cartons but also does polystyrene foam containers and RPCs, he said. In addition, “we pack two-, three- and four-pound clamshells” including some bi-color red-and-green packs.