Retailers and consumers are sweet on seedless black grapes — when they can find them and actually know what they are.
“Black seedless grapes are the largest growing category in the business,” said Louie Galvan, managing partner, Fruit Royale Inc., Delano, Calif.
Other growers have also noticed the growth of the lesser-ordered grape option.
“Demand for black seedless grapes seems to be a little more this year,” said Jared Lane, vice president of marketing for Bakersfield, Calif.-based Stevco Inc.
Jerry Havel, director of sales and marketing for Fresh Farms, Nogales, Ariz., agreed.
“The market seems to be growing for black grapes,” he said, mentioning that early range summer royals allow Farm Fresh to ship all three colors by the last week of May, or earlier.
Galvan believes one reason the black seedless grape has had trouble finding its place in the market is because consumers simply don’t know they are seedless.
“People see black grapes and automatically assume it has seeds, but they are starting to catch on that they are really seedless,” he said.
Lane thinks the black varieties are slowly gaining ground with consumers because they can be a little sweeter than their green and red counterparts.
Atomic Torosian, managing partner, Crown Jewels Produce, Fresno, Calif., agreed.
“We’re seeing an increase in the black varieties from Mexico, Chile and California. Some of them tend to have better eating characteristics and there’s rarely a problem with sugar. They have a tendency to be a little sweeter,” he said.
However, the sweetness level really depends on the grape, and the grower.
“They are only as sweet as you grow them,” Galvan said.
While some grower-shippers have only seen a modest increase, Galvan said Fruit Royale has increased its shipments of black seedless grapes by a significant amount.
“We used to sell a pallet here and there, but now we’re moving three or four times that,” he said.
Despite growth, the volume of black grapes sold is still far lower that other varieties.
“Whenever black grapes are promoted at the same time as the reds and greens, you’ll still use far less as the others,” said Steve Monroe, sales, Monroe & Sons Produce Distributors, Bakersfield, Calif.
“They might use six loads of red and five loads of green, with only one load of blacks,” he said.
John Pandol, special projects director for Pandol Bros. Inc., Delano, Calif., said this trend is a mystery, mentioning only about 5% of all grapes sold are black varieties.
“We all sort of scratch our heads as to why it’s not more even,” he said.
“There are some really good black varieties, but I think it’s the same reason some people don’t want to eat a yellow tomato. It’s just a new color to them,” Pandol said.