Consumers can have fresh fruit 52 weeks a year with items like table grapes becoming available year-round. This trend is driven by consumer preferences as shoppers seek out healthy food options all months of the year, according to Andy Higgins, CEO of International Fruit Genetics (IFG), based in Bakersfield, Calif. IFG is one of the world’s largest fruit-breeding operations.
“There is a renaissance happening in the world of table grapes,” asserts Higgins. “The generic offering of red, green and black grapes is being replaced by varieties sold by name, with each having a characteristic recognized by the consumer.” Some varieties simply eat better – being juicy, sweet or crunchy – while others offer different eating experiences through enhanced or special flavors, colors, textures and shapes.
Retailers can create value-added displays that tie together the variety and consumer benefits of the grapes to provide a value-added experience. “We look to the apple world for clues,” observes Higgins. “Nearly all apples today are sold by variety name, and these rotate through the season. Many consumers now have preferences for their apples, and it is not simply ‘red and green.’”
“We recognize that changing up the offering creates a sense of seasonality, impulse and interest,” continues Higgins, noting that there’s less emphasis on year-round production for his company’s specialty varieties and more emphasis on having sufficient supply at certain times of the year. Allowing retailers to rotate the offering creates interest. “For Cotton Candy grapes, for example, consumers would be delighted to see it in-store 30 weeks of the year, but might lose interest if available 52 weeks,” he advises.
Grapes are more of a staple today than 20 years ago, according to Higgins. Year-round supply in multiple countries and growing regions provides continual access to fresh fruit without the need for long-term storage. The result: Consumers benefit from having access to fresh fruit, and retailers benefit by having more choices to drive recurring sales and traffic.