By Melissa Nagel, Feature Contributor, Valley Ag Voice
The recent Global Table Grape Summit in Bakersfield brought together stakeholders from across six continents to learn about the latest table grape innovations and opportunities for expanded market access, as well as how the industry can confront “the avalanche of stressors” it currently faces. The August 20 summit was organized by Perishable Pundit founder Jim Prevor, who put together a compelling and informational event that showcased Bakersfield, and the Central Valley’s table grape growers, to the world.
Kathleen Nave, President and CEO of the California Table Grape Commission kicked off the summit. Throughout the day, more than 25 expert panelists covered a wide range of topics, from the school grape program ‘lunch bunch,’ to perspectives from retailers and wholesalers, to learning about new innovations in breeding and the value of evolving grape varietals.
Panelists discussed customer and retailer experiences, with most retailers seeking the “best red” or “best green” table grape rather than asking for a specific variety. This brought about a discussion on the benefits of naming grapes based on certain taste profiles, challenging the industry to think differently about marketing their products.
There are currently over 100 varieties of table grapes, and breeders are working to innovate even more to meet both customer and grower needs. Josep Estiarte, with Special New Fruit Licensing (SNFL) said, “In order to compete with other improving produce, we must make the grape pie bigger.”
The table grape industry stakeholders, growers, breeders, retailers and wholesalers recognized the importance of supporting each other during a difficult period of rising input costs and flat consumption, so the industry could be successful long-term.
The future of table grapes is all about the varietals and capitalizing on the innovation and progress that has occurred over the past ten years. Raising curiosity through the development of varietals and building awareness of what they are will increase customer appreciation and affinity toward table grapes.