California’s 2010 San Joaquin Valley table grape deal is just about to get under way, but for Bakersfield-based Sun World International LLC, preparation for the season began late last year.

That’s when company representatives set out to discover how the firm could help meet the needs of its retail and wholesale customers, said Gordon Robertson, vice president of sales and marketing.

“We spend a lot of time meeting with our customer base, truly understanding what obstacles they’re facing and the opportunities they see in the market,” he said.

Robertson believes Sun World is well-positioned to offer its customers a leg up when it comes to sparking interest in the table grape category.

“We’re bringing some new thinking to the table,” he said.

The new thinking includes new and customized packaging, “consumer insights” to help retailers appeal more effectively to their customers and ways to enable retailers to differentiate themselves through Sun World’s proprietary brands.

The company has come up with several packaging options, including customized packaging in certain markets to support strategic customers and packaging that is geographically specific.

Sun World also is trying to boost its appeal to retailers by developing eco-friendly packaging that offers a consistent look, Robertson said.

In addition, the company plays on its patented proprietary grape varieties, such as Midnight Beauty and Scarlotta Seedless, to help its customers create a point of differentiation.

“There are a lot of commodities available for our customers to buy, but if we can bring proprietary brands that have specific eating characteristics that actually turn into an interaction with the customer,” Robertson said, “it gives them the ability to bring something uniquely different to their customer base.”

Sun World also recognizes that consumers see traceability as a major concern and is working to meet the milestones of the Produce Traceability Initiative, Robertson said. The company has made it possible to trace clamshell containers back to their source.

“The consumer can go and see where this product came from, and who was the grower,” he said.