Magenta variety grapes grow for Fruit Royale Inc. in Delano, Calif. ( File photo )

Bari Produce LLC boosts Thomcords

Madera, Calif.-based Bari Produce LLC is building on its Thomcord grape program this season, said Justin Bedwell, president.

The Thomcord is a cross between a thompson green seedless and a concord, Bedwell said.

“It’s a nice unique item that we’d start in July and run through the end of August,” he said.

Thomcords will be available in 1-pound clamshells, priced in the $4/clam range, Bedwell said.

“They have great flavor,” he said.

Thomcord volume will be up nearly 80% this year over 2017, due to “a combination of new growers and new plantings coming into production,” Bedwell said.

“It’s a real unique variety,” he said. “It’s delicate. You have to know how to handle it. They eat like candy.”


MORE: Anthony Vineyards ups production of new grape varieties


Columbine Vineyards gets new owners

Delano, Calif.-based Columbine Vineyards has changed ownership this year, said Keith Andrew, sales manager.

Bakersfield, Calif.-based Agriculture Capital Foods took ownership of the grower-shipper March 1, having purchased it from Martin Caratan, who stayed on as a consultant, Andrew said.

“They put us under the umbrella of AC Foods — us and Suntreat Citrus,” Andrew said.

The Caratan family had owned the company for about 90 years, Andrew said.

The company now operates under a different philosophy, Andrew said.

“They want all their companies to have all their marketing together, have a better offering for customers through all the companies they own — they have blueberries, grapes, nuts and citrus,” Andrew said.

“They have it together to have more appeal to the customers. That, and spreading out the advertising.”

ACM is an investment company, but the group knows the business, Andrew said.

“I see a good synergy. They have people involved in ag all their life, so even though it’s an investment company, their background is in ag, so they’re not new to this,” he said.


Fruit Royale Inc. expects more volume

Delano, Calif.-based Fruit Royale Inc. is projecting higher grape volume this year, said Louie Galvan, managing partner.

“We’re looking at about 20% increase year-to-year, and that’s been going on probably the last five or six years,” he said.

Consistent volume increases are important to the company’s business model, Galvan said.

“We try to keep a good menu and keep as far ahead on varieties as we can and switch old stuff out for the new stuff and try to stay on the forefront on the explosion of varieties,” he said. “We’ve got a pretty good mix here.”

Fruit Royale offers grapes year-round, from Mexico, Peru and Chile, as well as California, Galvan said.

“For us, it’s key to have grapes every day of the year,” he said.


MORE: King Fresh Produce adds employees


Homegrown Organic offers newer varieties

Porterville, Calif.-based Homegrown Organic Farms will offer more new grape varieties this season, said Stephen Paul, category director.

“I’d say there’s probably 180-200 acres in expansion, in transition,” he said. “We have new plantings coming in. We pulled out some Crimsons and old acreage. We had citrus acreage that got pulled out that went to grapes. In some cases, we moved out some old varieties and moved in new ones.”

It’s a matter of efficiency, Paul said.

“It’s hard to argue with something that’s bringing 2,000 boxes an acre versus something that was struggling to bring 800 boxes an acre,” he said.

“With our costs, we have to have as much utilization of the ground to produce in order to survive. So, what used to be 700 to 1,200 boxes per acre has changed. We’ve got to be producing 2,000 an acre, so we have to get into varieties that produce more now. These old varieties just can’t produce.”


HMC Farms builds up newer offerings

Kingsburg, Calif.-based HMC Farms continues to build on its portfolio of new grape varieties, said Steve Kenfield, vice president of value-added.

“I’d say 95% of our vineyards have been planted in the last six years, so we’re coming into greater production of newer varieties,” he said. “We don’t have thompsons. We don’t have crimsons. And we have a foodservice program that helps pick out some of the peaks and valleys.

"Consumer response has been terrific. We think we can continue to drive the value of the crop to make grapes profitable.”


Richard Bagdasarian plants new varieties

Mecca, Calif.-based grower-shipper Richard Bagdasarian Inc. is trying out some new grape varieties this year, said Nick Bozick, president.

The newcomers include an Early Sweet, a early-season green seedless variety, as well as Midnight Beauty, Sable, Autumn Crisp, Sweet Sapphire and Jack’s Salute, Bozick said.

“We think there’s a good demand for these varieties by consumers and our customers,” Bozick said. “There’s also some advantages to having these varieties, whether time slot or productivity or growing costs.”


Sunview Vineyards of California hires sales VP

Mitch Wetzel has joined Delano, Calif.-based Sunview Vineyards of California Inc. as vice president of sales.

Wetzel, who joined the company Jan. 16, had been general manager at Bakersfield, Calif.-based shipper Alliance International LLC. He also has held positions with Irvine, Calif.-based; Newport Beach, Calif.-based Periccone Farms; and Bakersfield-based Sun World International.


Sun World International boosts production

Bakersfield, Calif.-based grower-shipper Sun World International LLC has increased its production in California’s San Joaquin Valley, said Danielle Loustalot, marketing manager.

“Sun World has strategically taken on a significant increase in volume in the San Joaquin Valley that allows us to extend and support our partnerships even further in 2018,” she said.


Top Brass Marketing has new office

Bakersfield, Calif.-based Top Brass Marketing Inc. has built new offices as a way to bring together its sales and support staff, said Brett Dixon, president and sales manager.

“Previously we were physically in different locations; this new move has helped our coordination and communication with our customers,” Dixon said. “We have already seen positive results and look forward to better serving our customer needs.”


Valhalla Sales & Marketing expects more volume

Visalia, Calif.-based Valhalla Sales & Marketing Inc. anticipates a big increase in grape volume this year, said David Stone, president, CEO and owner.

“Last year, some of our volume got hurt because of extreme heat, so I’m expecting our volume on grapes to be up 20% to 30% this year,” Stone said.

“Last year, we set a record for most days over 100 (degrees) and most days over 110. That has an effect on the vines. It will naturally thin itself out. Based on what we’re seeing now with water and temperatures, we’re anticipating being up in volume 30% this year.”