Sun World grape expo draws growers worldwide

08/06/2008 12:00:00 AM
Don Schrack

(Aug. 6, 10:26 a.m.) BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Eleven countries from five continents were represented as marketers and table grape grower-shippers, licensed to produce proprietary varieties developed by Sun World International LLC, gathered in California for the company’s second Table Grape Producer Expo.

The three-day expo, July 29-31, included workshops focusing on three Sun World table grape proprietary varieties: Scarlotta, Midnight Beauty and Sable.

“With growers in both hemispheres, the goal is to develop the consistent quality and taste to capture the category year round,” said David Marguleas, Sun World’s chief marketing officer.

The expo is just one facet of the ongoing learning process for grower-shippers, Marguleas said. Delegations of growers regularly visit vineyards in other countries and on other continents, he said.

“That coordination is critical,” Marguleas said.

In addition to the expos, which happen every five years, Marguleas said Sun World has meetings with licensees at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit conferences.

“The California Table Grape Commission has a long history of growers’ working together,” said Kathleen Nave, commission president and keynote speaker at the expo.

Annual domestic per capita consumption of table grapes dropped from 6 pounds in the early 1950s to less than 2 pounds by the late 1960s. Consumption has rebounded to about 5 pounds, she said.

“We learned we must first determine what the consumer wants,” Nave said.

The commission’s generic marketing is targeted at women, who research has found are the primary shoppers in 70% of U.S. households, she said.

The commission staff works closely with retailers.

“Retailers must understand that table grapes are a high-profit item,” Nave said.

The commission’s efforts to market table grapes internationally began in 1973, she said. Today, more than 35% of California table grapes are exported, she said.

Nave said the state’s table grape volume has climbed from 27 million cartons in 1968 to this season’s forecast of 96 million cartons.



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