AMC partners with Peruvian group to grow club grape varieties
Leading citrus and grape companies AMC Group and AMC North America have announced a new joint venture with Peru’s El Pedregal S.A. to grow its proprietary grape varieties.
The newly created Pedregal-Muñoz Farming S.A.C will begin operations in 2016, with the first plantings from its exclusive stock in Ica, Peru.
Table grape exporter El Pedregal was previously involved with AMC Group's breeding program as a long-term investor, but this new development is said to mark an 'unprecedented partnership' between grower and breeder.
AMC was founded in 1931 as a lemon grower in Murcia, Spain, and has since evolved into a fully integrated group of companies and a leader in fruit, flowers and juice.
Part of its business is the Special New Fruit Licensing (SNFL) Group, involved in the breeding, development and licensing of new varieties of table grapes, citrus and pomegranates.
"There was a time when consumers thought an orange was just an orange and a grape was just a grape," AMC Group CEO Alvaro Muñoz said in a release.
"But global production and distribution combined with better breeding programs have raised consumer awareness over time and ‘good’ isn’t good enough.
"Consumers today are constantly chasing the next big flavor and health sensation and that’s where we knew we could make inroads and gain traction with stellar varieties of our own and a vibrant research program that’s always in pursuit of the next big thing."
In response to the migration of breeding programs to the private sector over recent decades, AMC teamed up with renowned California grape breeder Tim Sheehan, funding his existing program in the San Joaquin Valley.
AMC says the program's key goals are to excite increasingly discerning consumers with excellent eating table grapes, while providing the entity and its global network of growers with more productive varieties that require less labor and lower overall inputs.
Just a few years into the partnership with Sheehan, AMC realized grape breeding was becoming a major part of its business, and in 2004 created SNFL.
"We knew we had to have growers capable of bringing out the best in the fruit. Anything short of that would have been like building a high performance race car and then letting just anyone drive it," Muñoz said.
SNFL has since licensed about 25,000 acres of the main Sheehan varieties worldwide, including over 10,000 acres in the San Joaquin Valley alone.
To ensure year-round availability, the organization has licensed some of the leading growers in Chile, Mexico, Brazil and Peru. Together the four countries will reportedly produce some 1.5 million cartons of Sheehan grapes in the coming season.
The current catalogue of some 20 varieties includes products like the mid-season, seedless Magenta, described as having 'an electric pink color and refreshing cherry overtones', and the early season green Ivory, described as 'crisp, juicy and deliciously sweet.'
To stay ahead of demand and evolving consumer tastes, SNFL has another 100 or so Sheehan selections in the developmental pipeline, many of which will be introduced as new commercial varieties in the coming months.
At the heart of those efforts is a new, high-tech laboratory and field testing facility in Spain, The Grape Genesis.
While Sheehan passed away in 2009, father and son team Juan and Ivan Carreño continue his work as breeder and molecular biologist respectively.
The team utilizes a vast and deep range of parental stock from across the world to create unique varieties that not only provide new flavor sensations but also feature health benefits consumers are looking for, as well as traits that benefit growers like better disease resistance.
The introduction of marker assisted breeding to the process will cut development time from origin to commercial production from 12-15 years to five-eight years, according to AMC.
The Magenta is the first variety to arrive from Peru this season, and The Timpson will be in the U.S. after Christmas. To help market the new arrivals, AMC North America has forged new partnerships with U.S. retailers.
"We want consumers to come back to retailers and specifically ask for Magenta by name, that’s the goal for all our varieties," said Muñoz.
"If you improve the product, you increase overall consumption, delight the consumer and retailer alike and can change the way Americans eat grapes – and that’s exactly what we’re doing."