The Mexican table grape deal brings excitement to shippers, retail managers and consumers, mainly because of the freshness of the product.

“The key thing to be excited about the Mexican grape season is that it means the first fresh grapes of the year,” said Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Nogales-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.

“Prior to this, grapes have been in storage, and while there are some good storage techniques, by the time consumers are eating grapes from Chile, they could have been picked months ago,” Jungmeyer said.

With the Mexican deal, consumers are able to buy grapes harvested less than a week before, in some cases.

“That’s a big difference. Mexican grapes just have that fresh pop,” he said.

Several Mexican grape shippers use the season as a kick-starter to their California grape deal.

“For us, we use Mexico as a springboard to California. If we have good supply through the Mexican deal, which lasts six or eight weeks, it seems to spill over to when we start in California,” said Louie Galvan, managing partner, Fruit Royale Inc., Delano, Calif.

In addition, if the Mexican deal has had good supply, Galvan said it helps pave the way for promotions on the California deal.

“It makes promoting in July and August much easier,” he said.

Typically, the Mexican season is finished before the California season begins in the San Joaquin Valley, so the two deals rarely compete. However, every year is different.

“It is rare, but our Caborca program can sometimes overlap the beginning of the California grape season, causing slight competition,” said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing for Del Monte Fresh Produce, Coral Gables, Fla.

Last year, the grape harvest from the valley began early, and the Mexican season peaked a little later, causing some overlap.

The Mexican deal usually hits about the same time as California’s Coachella Valley.

Jared Lane, vice president of marketing for Bakersfield, Calif.-based Stevco Inc., said Stevco is one of about two companies that market California and Mexican grapes at the same time, both of which have an important place in the market.

He said the Mexican season is important because it offers value to the consumer.

“Mexico can produce a piece of fruit at a better value than California because of production costs and the limited supply of acres in California,” Lane said.

In addition, Lane said the supply from Mexico is triple that grown in California.

Steve Monroe, sales, Monroe & Sons Produce Distributors, Bakersfield, Calif., agreed it’s hard to beat the value on Mexican grapes.

“If price and supplies were equal, Coachella would have the strong hold over Mexico, but price is the key,” he said.

Still, some prefer California-grown grapes, he said.
Having grapes from both locations can help fill any gaps in supply.
“If we are short of green from Mexico, we may have them in California,” Lane said.