Based on better cultural practices and newer, higher-yielding varieties, at least one industry leader said he believes the 2012 season has the potential to yield California’s first 100 million box table grape crop.
“We’re getting more grapes off the same land,” said John Pandol, director of special projects for Pandol Bros. Inc., Delano, Calif.
“Some people have argued if everything were perfect — the perfect storm in a positive sense — we could have 110 million boxes.”
Last season, the industry shipped 97.9 million boxes, according to figures from the California Table Grape Commission, Fresno.
Sean Stockton, president of Sundale Sales, Tulare, Calif., said his company was experiencing growth similar to Pandol’s experience.
“Our programs continue to grow,” Stockton said, adding Sundale plans to handle about 4 million packages this year.
Based on current weather, he said he expects harvest in the Tulare area to begin about the second week in July with sugraones and flames, followed by summer royals.
In addition to standard packs, Sundale this season will offer a gusseted zipper bag with a handle.
“It’s more of a high-graphic bag that seems to be very anticipated in the marketplace,” Stockton said. “The retail side is very much interested in using this bag going forward.”
Atomic Torosian, co-owner of Crown Jewels Marketing & Distribution LLC, Fresno, Calif., said he expects the Coachella Valley deal to begin the first week of May, about the same time as Mexico.
Shipments should transition into the San Joaquin Valley about July 4, with promotable volumes coming about mid-July.
Crown Jewels expects to handle slightly more volume this year because of new acreage coming on and the addition of a few more growers.
Like Sundale, Crown Jewels also plans to offer what Torosian called a high-graphic, grab-and-go bag.
“You can do more with the promotions, and you can dress this bag up much better,” he said. “It’s a fixed weight too.”
Much like its stone fruit program, Scattaglia Growers & Shippers, Travers, Calif., should see table grape volumes increase by about 35% under its SunDisk label, said managing partner Louis Scattaglia.
He expects to start in mid-July with flame seedless, followed by summer royal and princess.
Heading into 2012, Pandol Bros. expects increased volumes of U.S. Department of Agriculture cultivars, such as scarlet royal and autumn king, said Scott Reade, vice president of sales and marketing.
The Delano-based operation also planned to handle more Sweet Celebration, a proprietary red variety that harvests beginning in late August — typically between flames and crimsons.
Last year was the first season that Pandol Bros. had meaningful volumes of Sweet Celebration.
The berries are very sweet, very crunchy and large, Reade said.
Like many other grower-packer-shippers, Brandt Farms Inc., Reedley, Calif., expects increased volumes this year, led by flame seedless, said Michael Reimer, vice president of sales. This also will be the first crop of autumn kings.
The grower-packer-shipper continues to offer thomcords, a cross between thompson seedless and concord grapes, in 1-pound clamshells.
The specialty grape is round and black like a concord but seedless like a thompson.
“It’s like eating grape jelly,” Reimer said.
The eight-week season should begin the last week in July or first week of August.