While some retailers have a preference for U.S. produce, many major U.S. supermarket chains focus on a combination of quality and price, and that means they often buy Mexican-grown grapes.
“I don’t think there’s an issue regarding quality,” said Dirk Winkelmann, international business development director for Pacific Trellis Fruit, Reedley, Calif.
Just as in the U.S., Chile or other countries, some growers in Mexico grow a better quality product than others, he said. And variations in quality usually are reflected in the price.
It’s understandable that some U.S. companies prefer domestic table grapes, he said. Others, however, seek out the best quality for the best price and buy from growers in Mexico or California, depending on market conditions.
Sometimes, if a retailer has a close relationship with a distributor, he will trust the supplier to deliver the best value, he said.
Steve Yubeta, vice president of sales for Farmer’s Best International LLC, Rio Rico, Ariz., said most of his retail customers are eager to buy Mexican grapes.
“They know we can produce the quality they want,” he said, and the growers typically offer a fair price.
Mexico also is able to offer a new crop in the spring.
“Everyone usually is anxious for a new crop,” Yubeta said.
At the Abingdon, Va.-based Food City store in Louisa, Ky., produce manager Lequitte Perry said she gets grapes from all over, including Mexico.
If customers express hesitation about buying imported product, she explains how the grapes are grown using good agricultural practices and undergo many quality and safety checks both at the grower-shipper level and at store level.
She displays the grapes in a consistent 4-foot display that also features grapes from Chile and California at various times of the year.
The store typically offers red, white, black seedless and red globe varieties.
The grapes arrive in roughly 2-pound zipper bags, which Perry zips shut to prevent grapes from falling out.
However, she also offers regular produce bags on the table so shoppers who don’t need the full 2 pounds can remove what they need and take them home.
When she receives good quality grapes at an especially attractive price, she’ll also display them on a 6-foot end cap on a middle table and call attention to the grapes with strands of lights resembling pods of grapes.
Since that table is not refrigerated, she monitors the display closely to make sure the product is moving quickly. If movement slows, she’ll reduce the size of the grape display and fill in with other items on the sides.