Last season, Jac Vandenberg Inc. shipped about 10% of its Chilean grapes in standup bags.
After seeing demand from retailers increase during California’s summer grape season, the Yonkers, N.Y.-based importer plans to pack at least half of its Chilean grapes in the high-graphic bags this season.
“It’s created tremendous demand and excitement in the grape category,” grape category manager Brian Schiro said. “It seems to have lifted the entire category.”
Schiro said in the past the company shipped most of its Chilean grapes in slider bags, but this season Jac Vandenberg plans to work with its suppliers to ensure the standup bags include some of its best quality and larger-sized grapes.
“There’s big demand for this pack,” he said. “But it needs to contain excellent grapes. Retailers and wholesalers aren’t just expecting some new, fancy bag. A premium package deserves premium grapes.”
Schiro said some retailers have reported standup bags increase sales and reduce shrink.
“You can’t have standup bags stacked one on top of the other,” he said, “so you have less bags in a display. That requires the produce manager to work the display more often so you don’t throw out as many bags. The fruit also moves faster because it’s appealing to the consumer.”
Schiro said the company was the nation’s largest U.S. importer of Chilean grapes last year, with about 4.2 million boxes.
He said Jac Vandenberg expects those numbers to be slightly reduced because of the severe freeze that damaged Chilean crops this fall.
“Some people think Chile’s volume will be down 20%,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean the U.S. will be down 20%. It could impact other markets more significantly. It’s hard to predict what the impact will be.”
Jac Vandenberg expects to start receiving break bulk shipments in mid-December, Schiro said, with volume continuing through the end of May.
Schiro also said Jac Vandenberg plans to test several new seedless varieties in limited volumes during the Chilean season, including magenta and timpson.
Growers are looking for varieties that will offer better sizing, eating quality, shelf life and yields as well as reduced labor requirements, he said.
“This is the future of the grape category,” he said. “We’re interested to see how they perform with a two-week transit on a vessel and fumigation. We’ll be looking to see how these test pallets perform and how they arrive. We have a lot of customers who are eager to get their hands on these test varieties.”