California grapes could have another record year

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California grapes could have another record year

Despite severe drought conditions, the California table grape industry expects to come through with another bumper season for volume.shutterstock_136396406

Initial estimates place the 2014-15 crop at 116.5 million, 19-pound boxes, said Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission (CTGC).

The estimate rivals last season's record crop of 117.4 million boxes. Nave attributed the state's strong performance to steady improvements in production practices.

"In the course of the last decade, there have been many changes in the table grape industry in California in terms of trellising and planting density, watering strategies, varietal mix. All of those things add up to what we are seeing now, which is increased production on virtually the same amount of acreage," Nave told

The final estimate for the crop will be ready in mid-July. Although changes to the final numbers are common, Nave said the current forecast takes the state's dry conditions into consideration.

"Obviously the drought is a significant concern but this estimate was made understanding the ramifications of the drought," she said.

A major goal of the California industry has been to extend its harvest through December and continue marketing fruit as late as February. Although the current harvest has begun two weeks early, Nave said the industry expects to extend production throughout that late-season window.

"Last year we harvested into December and we were shipping into February. We expect the same to hold true this year. That's been a long-term goal and that has to do with varietal development," she said.

As for the marketing side, she said the industry has been strengthened by the availability of promotional funding. CTGC runs extensive ad campaigns throughout the world to bolster the image of California agriculture.

"Our marketing teams have been out since the middle of March getting retail commitments and getting ads going for the early season. We are very focused on getting retailers committed for the May-June time period, and of course, we want them to commit to California," she said.

Domestically, the early season will come with a new television ad campaign to educate shoppers on how to integrate table grapes into their regular diet.

"In the U.S., we will have a campaign with the Food Network. That's a place where primary shoppers in the U.S. look for ideas on food and healthy eating and entertaining. We will have two new television ad that we'll be breaking in June. We will also be running magazine ads in every issue from June to December," she said.

Magazine ads runs by the commission in the U.S., Canada, Asia and other markets are "taggable," meaning retailers that commit to California grapes will have the option of being featured in the space.

During the extended marketing period in December and January, Nave said the promotional program has been very successful at generating retail commitments.

Internationally, she said the main goal is to get more people choosing California more often.

"The messaging is about California grapes being beautiful, healthy and great tasting. Consumers around the world want ideas on how to incorporate grapes into their daily diets. So that's really what our campaign is focused around. It focuses on family and social activities," she said.

"We want consumers from around the world to buy more California table grapes more often. We  have a growing industry and growing volume. We want to have California table grapes on retail shelves, in wholesale markets, on wet markets, in restaurants."

Related stories: California reports record table grape volume

Late season promotions planned for California table grapes



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