Sun World International LLC plans volume increases on various table grape varieties this season from production areas in California and Mexico.
“We have 25% more volume from Mexico, coming from the early growing regions, which allows us to supply customers through the full extent of the Mexico grape season,” said Gordon Robertson, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Bakersfield, Calif.-based Sun World.
For the early California crop, Sun World boosted its red grapes supply in Coachella in response to customer demand, Robertson said.
Moreover the grower-shipper has planted 100 new acres in Coachella of Superior Seedless, flame seedless, and two new proprietary varieties — red and black — that will come into production next year, Robertson said.
For fall, Sun World’s black Adora Seedless will be in its second year of commercial production. That grape fills a late September-November window.
Customers responded well to the Adora, Robertson said, for its size — an 1 inch in diameter — texture and sweetness.
“It also has a virtually nonexistent seed trace, unlike other black seedless varieties available during the same time frame,” he said.
As the grower-shipper’s Autumn Crisp vineyards hit their second and third years of production, volume is expected to rise about 20% over last year. Among growers, the proprietary variety has a reputation for low maintenance before harvest. Sun World markets its flavor as a subtle muscat.
Like most California shippers Sun World started its season early, coming off a warm winter. The company reported good color, brix and size on its Coachella table grapes. From the San Joaquin Valley, promotable volumes of flame seedless, Superior Seedless and Midnight Beauty were forecast for the Fourth of July.
California’s drought has been an issue for all growers, but affects some more than others.
“Water is not an issue for us, but we are seeing windows of opportunities open up as some competitive crops are not as widely available to our customers,” Robertson said. “They are looking to grapes to fill some of those promotional time frames.”
Marketing, retail support
For the 2014 season, the grower-shipper has updated its packaging with new social media callouts that encourage consumers to interact on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Sun World offerings include high-graphic grab-and-go bags, clear cast polypropylene bags, and clamshells.
The clamshell offerings include a two-color pack combining Superior Seedless and Midnight Beauty. It’s dubbed “Together at Last.” Besides convenience, the clamshell offers consumers who favor green grapes a chance to try black seedless, said Natalie Erlendson, program marketing manager.
“It can be used as an item that differentiates the produce department and helps drive incremental sales,” she said.
For retailers, Sun World recently designed new point-of-sale materials and merchandising bins, a response to research that’s shown most shoppers make their grape-buying decision in store. Information provided for shoppers includes varieties, pairing suggestions and health benefits.
Recipe and pairing ideas — such as summer cocktails or kids’ snacks — are also part of the shipper’s push to keep turning out fresh content on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.