New grape company to focus on San Joaquin Valley

05/27/2008 12:00:00 AM
Don Schrack

(May 27, 1:30 p.m.) The newest expansion team in California’s table grape sales league is The Grape Guys, Cutler, Calif., and its roster is loaded with familiar veterans.

Shaun Ricks, president of The Grape Guys, has been in the produce industry for more than 30 years. Ricks spent the past six years as manager of the grape division for Pacific International Marketing Inc., Salinas, Calif. His partners include two other former Pacific International Marketing employees, Greg Irby and Mark Kalafut. Irby is the new company’s chief financial officer and Kalafut is sales manager.

The Grape Guys will focus in 2008 on San Joaquin Valley growers, Ricks said.

“We’re probably at 80% under contract, and I’m pretty optimistic about the remaining 20%,” he said.

The company’s table grape volume this year is expected to be more than 2 million cartons, Ricks said.

“We’ll likely be heavier to red seedless, but we’ll have very nice early and late season thompson programs,” he said.

The first of the table grapes could be harvested the last week in June, Ricks said.

The fruit will be marketed under The Grape Guys label. The company has established cold storage facilities in Arvin, Exeter and Cutler, where the grapes will be stored for shipment after they are field packed, he said.

The Grape Guys are targeting customers in retail, foodservice and wholesale, Ricks said. In addition, he said the company is developing an export program for Canada and for Central and South America and Pacific Rim countries.

The emphasis is more than ever before on quality, Ricks said.

“There’s no place in the industry for mediocre fruit any more,” he said. “The retailers don’t want to deal in mediocre fruit, they don’t have the time to deal in it.”

The company is building a Web site. The telephone number for the Cutler office is (559) 528-6400.

Ricks was a founder of New Leaf Grape Co., Traver, Calif., in 1996 where he worked with Irby and Kalafut. The trio joined Pacific International Marketing in 2002.



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