While some growers in Mexico experiment with new or unusual varieties, most offer the same kinds of table grapes as their California counterparts.
Reedley, Calif.-based Pacific Trellis Fruit sells the standard varieties, like perlettes and flames, but Dirk Winkelmann, international business development director, said a handful of growers are testing or have new licensed varieties in full production.
“Some growers are always looking for the next new variety to improve their bottom lines and be a more profitable part of their portfolio of products,” he said.
It makes sense to explore those varieties and see what may be out there to replace current varieties and achieve better yields, require less labor to maintain and harvest and demand a better premium, he said.
Winkelmann likely would do some varietal experimenting if he were a grower, he said, but Pacific Trellis does not offer proprietary varieties per se.
“It’s not a necessity for our business,” he said.
Pandol Bros. Inc., Delano, Calif., has experimented with some new varieties, said John Pandol, director of special projects.
“But at the end of the day, they don’t sell any better (than standard varieties), and people aren’t any more delighted,” he said.
There’s a certain level of distrust for new varieties on the part of many growers, he said.
Los Angeles-based Stevco Inc. sources perlettes, summer royals, flames, sugraones, red globes, princess and various black varieties out of Mexico, said Jared Lane, vice president of marketing.
The company expects to have an increase of flames this season, but volumes of other varieties should be similar to last year.
“We try to grow the biggest and best grapes possible with the highest sugar,” he said.
Sun World International LLC, Bakersfield, Calif., enables retailers to differentiate themselves from their competition by offering its proprietary Midnight Beauty black seedless grapes and Superior Seedless sugraones, said Rudy Heras, Mexican grapes category director.
While Delano-based Fruit Royale Inc. grows 18 or more varieties in California, the company sources primarily perlettes, flames, sugraones, red globes and some unknown blacks from Mexico, said Louie Galvan, managing partner.
Mexico has only a six- to eight-week window, and the heat can be so intense that many growers are reluctant to plant other varieties, he said, though some are experimenting with other types of grapes to see how they produce in various growing areas.
Unlike some items, like strawberries, where new plants are planted every year, grape vines stay in the ground for many years, and it can take two years for them to produce, he said. So there’s rarely an inclination to change varieties.
There are some specialty varieties available, like the niabell, champagne and muscat, but they account for only a tiny fraction of the total, Pandol said.
“New varieties may be slightly different, but they’re not much of a game changer,” he said.
In fact, there may be a trend back to the old standbys, like flames and sugraones, he said.
“The perception often is that the old varieties are the cat’s meow,” he said. “New is not necessarily better.”