Retailers use strategies to promote Mexican grape consumptionGrape consumption continues to rise, a good sign for growers and shippers.

Sales of grapes have increased in the past year due to people eating more fresh produce as well as new varieties entering the market, said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing for Del Monte Fresh Produce, Coral Gables, Fla.

David Espinoza, president and sourcing director for the new Charlotte, N.C.-based International Fruit Co., which markets Chiquita grapes, said the market for all grapes should be similar to last year"s.

"Grapes are top five on consumption, and the majority of the volume is between red and green seedless varieties," Espinoza said.

Since Chile often finishes early on green grapes, Miguel Suarez, owner of MAS Melons &amp Grapes in Rio Rico, Ariz., said North American buyers particularly pursue the first Mexican green grapes, especially perlettes.

"There"s a lot of pressure on the industry at the beginning of the season to pick grapes before they"re fully ripe just to get them on the shelves," he said.

"But that doesn"t do anybody any good."

Marc Serpa, director of domestic grapes for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group, said varietal popularity during the 2012 spring grape season was somewhat regional.

Citing Freshlook Data from Fusion Marketing, Serpa said green grapes performed very well in California, red and green grapes were equally strong sellers in other Western states, and red grapes dominated most other areas.

Marketing tips

"To generate and maintain consumer interest in the grape category, offer attractive and visually striking displays and promotional pricing," said Tom Wilson, grape sales manager for Los Angeles-based Giumarra Companies.

Retailers should also maximize their merchandising efforts to drive impulse purchases of grapes, said Natalie Erlendson, marketing director for Bakersfield, Calif.-based Sun World International LLC.

To get grapes on shopping lists before consumers enter stores, follow these suggestions from the Perishables Group:

  • Advertise multiple grape varieties in one ad
  • For the highest category lift, advertise five varieties in the same ad (70% lift May-August)
  • Promote grapes four to five times a month for category lift of up to 360%
  • Promote grapes as a sweet and healthy snack food and
  • Promote new varieties. Sun World says its Midnight Beauty grapes created a category sales lift of 21%.

Wilson said research shows consumers are willing to try black grapes when they"re displayed with red and green seedless varieties.

Serpa recommends silent-sampling several varieties to help shoppers choose.

Other suggestions include:

  • Cross-merchandising with picnic favorites in June
  • Telling the grower"s story using quick-response codes or point-of-sale materials to help connect the shopper to the producer
  • Promoting the health message that grapes are loaded with nutrients and
  • Tying grapes into healthy lifestyle cross-promotions in or near the pharmacy.