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OPN Connect Newsletter 234 · September 9, 2021

California Organic Grapes Offer Fall Opportunities


A trio of California shippers agree that there will be solid retail promotional opportunities for organic table grapes as production from the San Joaquin Valley moves into fall.

“This season has been fairly typical weather wise,” said Mitch Wetzel, vice president of sales at Sunview Marketing International in Bakersfield, CA. “The quality of our organic grapes has been excellent. Our customers have told us the grapes have been moving very well at retail, and customers are happy with the size and sweetness of our organic grapes.”

Stemilt September 2021

Mitch Wetzel, Vice President of Sales, Sunview Marketing

Sunview will be shipping organic grapes through the end of December, with a plethora of varieties to choose from in all colors, Wetzel said.

“Sunview has an amazing lineup of organic grapes as we head into the fall time frame,” he said. “Our red seedless varieties will include Scarlet Royal, Magenta, Timco, Allison, and Crimson. Our green seedless availability continues with our incredible proprietary brand Stella Bella, Great Green, Sorella Bella, and Autumn King.”

“The quality of our organic grapes has been excellent. Our customers have told us the grapes have been moving very well at retail, and customers are happy with the size and sweetness of our organic grapes.” -Mitch Wetzel

Organics Unlimited September 2021

Wetzel noted that the company’s organic golden seedless brand, Sweet Carnival, will continue production into the fall, and Sunview will also be harvesting and selling organic black seedless grapes. 

“During the fall, we will have promotable volumes of all of our organic grapes,” said the Sunview executive.

Sunview's Stella Bella grapes

Red Sun Farms September 2021

Craig Morris, category director of citrus and grapes for Homegrown Organic Farms in Porterville, CA, painted a similar picture of the grower-shipper’s 2021 organic table grape season. “It’s been a very good season so far,” he said on September 8. “We are right in peak season and will be through October. We expect promotable availability now through October.”

Craig Morris, Category Director, Homegrown Organic Farms

Morris said securing sufficient labor to harvest the grapes has been a challenge all season. He revealed the grower-shipper-packer has been getting by with about 50 percent of its normal labor force. “Our number one focus every day is securing enough labor to harvest the crop.”

Starr Ranch September 2021

There are signs that the labor crisis is easing up a bit, Morris said. “We are hopeful that we will have more labor this month to harvest the good volume we have coming on to keep up with demand and create promotable volume.”

“It’s been a very good season so far. We are right in peak season and will be through October. We expect promotable availability now through October.” -Craig Morris

Homegrown has not yet lost any fruit because of lack of labor, he said, and it is keeping its collective fingers crossed as the season wears on. 

NatureSafe September 2021

“Like most growers that have planted vineyards over the past six to ten years, we have a good lineup of the newer ‘hot shot’ varieties,” Morris said, describing those newer varieties as ones that grow a larger berry that stays firm, eats well, and ships well.

Homegrown expects the Timco and Scarlet Royal varieties to take the company to the finish line in the red seedless category, while Great Greens, Kelly, and Timson will do the heavy lifting on the green seedless side during September and October.

Demand for organic grapes has been great all season with the FOB prices up about 10 percent to the mid-$20s on both reds and greens. “We’re selling them as fast as we can pick them,” Morris quipped, noting that demand for organics continues to increase. “Year after year, we get more inquiries. Organics have gone far past the fad stage. Consumers have embraced the health and wellness factor, and retailers are continually looking for more volume. At Homegrown, we are growing at about 10 percent per year to keep up with the demand.”

Rob Spinelli, Anthony Vineyards

Rob Spinelli of Anthony Vineyards in Bakersfield, CA, agreed that it has been a good season with excellent demand for organic grapes. “It looks like we are ahead of schedule due to the grapes coming on a little faster and an uptick in retail business. Our retail partners have been increasing their volume [on orders] all season. There seems to be more of a push to promote organics,” he said. “We are harvesting a bit faster than usual. We will have to wait and see if this means we are going to finish up a bit early. It's too early to tell that right now.”

“Organics have gone far past the fad stage. Consumers have embraced the health and wellness factor, and retailers are continually looking for more volume.” -Craig Morris

Anthony Vineyards is heavily into organic table grapes, with a significant majority of its volume devoted to that segment. Spinelli promised that the grower-shipper will have promotable volume at a good FOB price at least through September on organic table grapes. “We may see some firming up of the price as we get into October and especially in November, but we should have organic volume until the middle of November. Usually, we are out by Thanksgiving.”

Valent September 2021

Sweet Scarlet and Timco are Anthony’s top organic red seedless varieties over the next couple of months, while Great Greens lead the procession on the lighter-color side of the ledger. Spinelli did reveal that the company will have an organic winter grape program out of Peru this year, with more details forthcoming down the road.

Decco September 2021
OGS September 2021
Duncan September 2021

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