Fresh Farms opens warehouse
Grower-shipper Fresh Farms is opening a grape warehouse next to its current facility in Rio Rico, Ariz., just in time for the Mexican grape season.
Director of sales and marketing Jerry Havel said the new warehouse is slightly smaller than the existing facility, with storage for up to 75 loads, but capacity should double next year after the company installs a rack system.
The original building can hold 80 loads, Havel said.
International Fruit Co. markets for Chiquita
The new International Fruit Co., based in Charlotte, N.C., plans to source its first grapes from Mexico this spring as the exclusive licensee of Chiquita Brands International.
“IFC will perform as importer and will work with quality grapes to get the best results on sales for growers and customers,” said Chiquita veteran David Espinoza, now IFC’s president and sourcing director.
He sees this year’s prices and market for Mexican grapes as very similar to previous years.
“Red seedless volume from Chile is always a big volume at the end of the season, but the market is reacting well on consumption and promotions,” he said.
MAS Melons partner expands storage
One of the four Mexican partners of Nogales, Ariz.-based MAS Melons & Grapes LLC has quadrupled his storage facility in Mexican grapes, said major shareholder Miguel Suarez, who distributes 70% of the Molina Group’s harvest.
“We keep improving our pre-cooling facility and capacity,” Suarez said. “We’re working on improving our yields and quality using different techniques, trying to keep up with technology.”
Oppenheimer Group expects more grapes
Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group says its Mexican grape volume could increase by more than 50% compared to last year’s program.
“With the addition of new growers and increased acreage coming into production, we are able to expand our offerings this season,” said Marc Serpa, director of domestic grapes.
Oppenheimer works with four well-established growers producing the full range of preferred varieties, including autumn and summer royals, flames, perlettes, thompsons and red globes, Serpa said.
The program includes zip bags, handle bags, clamshells and RPCs, all packed under the Oppenheimer brand.
Pacific Trellis Fruit increases volume
Fresno, Calif.-based Pacific Trellis Fruit plans to pack about 1 million boxes out of Mexico this year from its two main growers.
With new plantings coming into production, that’s slightly up from last year, said general manager Josh Leichter, who joined Pacific Trellis a year ago.
For the second year, the grower-shipper will feature its Going Ape brand in greater volume on boxes and packaging this year, Leichter said.
The brand features a high-graphic, stand-up bag with a label appealing to children.
Along with traditional perlettes, sugraones and flames, he said Pacific Trellis expects to pack more red globes and black seedless this year.
Pandol Bros. aims to extend shelf life
One of the 12 Mexican growers who work with Delano, Calif.-based Pandol Bros. Inc. has built a temperature-controlled packinghouse for assembling multicolored special packs.
John Pandol, director of special projects, said the grower brings in three colors of fruit and repacks them in clamshells after they’re chilled.
Chilling before packing gives the fruit a stronger post-harvest life, Pandol said.
“Last year was his first trial,” Pandol said. “He’s willing to do anything, and he doesn’t have to worry about the heat — he may keep white grapes for five days, red grapes for 10 days and pack black grapes that day.”
Most packinghouses pack at ambient temperature, he said, but fruit from the field may be delayed before it’s chilled.
“When you see clamshells on retail shelves with fruit that looks older than it would in bags, it’s because the fruit was delayed before entering the cold chain,” Pandol said.
Stevco to offer more grapes, flames
Stevco Inc. expects to add about 150,000 more boxes of Mexican grapes this year, predominately flames, said vice president of marketing Jared Lane, based in Bakersfield, Calif.
“We pack in RPC’s or whatever our customers demand,” said Lane, “and we’re able to place GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) labels on all our boxes for traceability.”
Selling grapes from Mexico and California’s Coachella Valley at the same time has its benefits, he said.
“If red grapes are a little tight in one area you might have them in another area and vice versa.”
The two deals are usually harvested about a week apart, he said, depending on the weather.