“Growers want varieties that will help the season get a little longer, especially on the front end. The earlier the better,” said Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Nogales-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.
Early varieties are preferred because the market is ready for fresh grapes early in the spring.
“Right now, the grapes we’re eating are from Chile, where they have been harvested several months ago
sometimes. With early Mexican varieties, we can have a fresher grape with that nice texture to it,” Jungmeyer said.
Any major changes could still be in the future, because changing varieties takes time.
John Pandol, special projects director for Pandol Bros. Inc., Delano, Calif., said many of these new varieties are very early in the development stages.
“New varieties are really more prototypes at this point,” Pandol said.
He relates choosing new varieties to putting a deposit on a timeshare for a resort community that hasn’t yet been built.
“The California plant breeders are making a big push into Mexico. They are pretty aggressive to get guys to sign off on new varieties,” Pandol said.
Retailers are also hungry for new options to promote.
“Retailers are always searching for new varieties to offer to their consumers,” said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing for Del Monte Fresh Produce, Coral Gables, Fla.
Others agree that the push for new varieties often comes from retailers.
“Almost every store asks you what you have that’s new, so there’s pressure to put new things out there quickly,” Pandol said.
Not all retailers are ready for new products this early in the game, though.
“There are guys on both sides of this. Some say they only want something new if it’s truly better,” Pandol said.
Growers are also excited about the chance for new varieties.
“We see a huge opportunity. A lot of new varieties are coming out of California and there is an explosion of varieties coming to market,” said Louie Galvan, managing partner, Fruit Royale Inc., Delano, Calif.
“They grab attention. It’s not just the regular old red and green seedless, which encourages consumers to try them out,” he said.
All these developments can cause new varieties to run together in the minds of those selecting which new options to plant.