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Grape market holding firm, strong fall deal expected

After a slow start, California’s summer grape deal has kicked into gear. Experts anticipate a strong deal with promotable volume from late summer through Thanksgiving.

“We got off to a slow start, but that wasn’t a bad thing,” said Louie Galvan of Fruit Royale Inc., based in Delano, CA. “That gave us an opportunity to clean up our Mexican deal before really getting going up here.”

He also noted in early August that the delayed start has not resulted in a bunching up in production, but instead has allowed for a good flow of product — enough for promotions but not so much that the coolers are overfilled. By the end of August, Galvan said the red seedless Scarlett Royal and the green seedless Autumn King will be in production giving retailers plenty of promotional opportunities.

“I think those are the industry’s No. 1 and No. 2 grapes in terms of volume,” he said. “In fact, in August and September and right on into October we should have promotable volumes of red, green and black varieties.”

Galvan said Aug. 6 that the market was holding firm and steady. He said top quality, number ones were selling for mostly $18-$22 per carton depending upon the variety, and promotional pricing. He added that when retailers can put fresh grapes on ad in the $1.49 to $1.99 per pound range, movement is brisk.

Again, he predicted good volume, good supplies and promotable volume for the next several months. However, he did add, “we are always at the mercy of Mother Nature.” Galvan said grapes do well with warm temperatures even when they slide above 100 degrees, which is not rare in California’s San Joaquin Valley. “As long as they don’t get in that 108 to 110 degree range for too long. Those temperatures can make everything shut down.”

Aside from sending a shockwave to the plant itself, those temperatures are not conducive to harvesting the crop, and for the sake of the workers, companies limit harvesting to just the cooler early morning hours. During the second week of August, temperatures in the area were cooperating very well, with highs mostly in the mid-90s.

Also weighing in on the fall grape deal was Mitch Wetzel, vice president of sales for Sunview Marketing International, based in Delano, CA. He agreed that there would be many promotional opportunities during the back half of the season. “There will be promotional opportunities every week through Thanksgiving,” he said.

Concentrating on the varieties that Sunview grows and markets, Wetzel said the company would have several red grapes, including its proprietary variety Gem, Allison, and Scarlet Royal. On the green side, Sunview is touting its proprietary Stella Bella and Sorella Bella, as well as Timpson and Great Green, and Autumn King in October. Autumn Royal will be its main black seedless grape in the fall.

Wetzel said fall is an exceptional time for retail grape promotions. Overall, he said there would be promotable supplies of many varieties, including proprietary varieties, which he said provide an excellent opportunity for retailers to offer their customers something a bit unique.