Add grapes to the list of fresh produce commodities that were affected by this year’s El Niño. This year’s weather patterns have created an imbalance of quality supply—an imbalance that creates an environment that appeals to the adrenaline-seeking produce buyer.
Typically, there is a nice transition as the Chilean grape deal wraps up and the Mexican and Coachella, CA, deals begin. However, the undesired rainfalls this winter and high humidity levels in Chile through January have delayed grape production in the region.
However, this year, the dry climate and warmer temperatures in Mexico and Coachella have created a spring grape season that will start 7-10 days early.
So instead of a natural handoff, there are now overlapping and competing sources. There is now the potential for ample supply through April into early May due to the fact that the United States is the closest, most viable market for the Chileans to export to.
How many spring grapes are we looking at? Early estimates are calling for 16-18 million cases out of Mexico and 6 million cases out of Coachella. With up to 24 million cases, the volume is there, but retailers need to price the product at a level that keeps customers purchasing grapes time and again during the spring season.
With the expected early start this year and a late Memorial Day, there should be significant opportunities to promote grapes for Memorial Day and beyond. However, having additional time to sell grapes might not be enough by itself to move through all the inventory that’s expected this spring. We need the help of retailers and wholesalers to drive the volume that is expected.
One of the more noticeable ways to merchandise grapes is to create large displays, such as the one below, to entice consumer purchases. Retailers also rely on tie-ins with other fruit items like pineapple, strawberries, and blueberries, which helps drive customers to a one stop section for creating appealing fruit trays for different events.
In addition to these merchandising tactics, emphasizing the unique characteristics of different grape varieties gives retailers a point of differentiation in their promotions and will help consumers have a better eating experience, leading to repeat purchases.
There are your standard varieties like Flames and Sugraones out of Mexico and Coachella that drive most of the volume; however, it is important to also focus on some of the new age varieties that will also be available.
Some varieties to keep your eye out for, albeit in limited supply, would be the Cotton Candy grape, which has a sweeter flavor that kids love. In addition to the Cotton Candy grape, Sweet Celebration and Sweet Globe are a few of the newer varieties coming out of Mexico.
In Coachella, there are a number of grape varieties including the Valley Pearl, Magenta, and Ivory (also known as the SHEGENE-21) that can really add excitement to any produce department!
Even though El Niño has provided an opportunity to be creative with grape merchandising, it’s important for retailers to think about the spring grape season as a sprint. Grapes market well to several demographics because of their convenience, portability, and healthy attributes. With supply coming in from three growing regions, retailers will need to pull out all the stops in order to move through a lot of fruit in a short period of time.