Arizona-based Divine Flavor is increasing the availability of its specialty grape varieties such as Cotton Candy, Gummyberries, Sweet Sapphire and others. The company has announced it has planted a new vineyard in Baja California in order to complement its existing program. At the moment, the company grows grapes in Mexico from May to July, after which there is a gap until the Peru season begins after Thanksgiving. It then moves to Chile before the Sonora season starts again. The Baja crop is intended to fill the gap from July to November and allow for year-round production.
"We have just finished planting our Baja grapes which will yield their first fruits for the 2020 season," said Carlos Bon of Divine Flavor. "The vineyard is 500 acres and is located about 120 miles south of San Diego. Of the 500 acres, 455 is made up of organic grapes. It is the first organic table grape vineyard of commercial size in the entire region. This region will produce table grapes between July 20 and Thanksgiving, allowing us to close the gap and become a year-round supplier."
Bon added that the company are only planting specialty varieties in this region. "It will only have the new, high flavor proprietary varieties," he said. "For example, Cotton Candy, Gummyberries, Jellyberries and Sweet Sapphire, among others."
Growth in specialty grape category a factor
One of the motivating factors of expanding to a year-round supply of these specialty grapes is the growing demand Divine Flavor said it is seeing in the market. Bon said it has been difficult to keep up with the demand and the natural way to meet that demand was to increase availability. Many of the consumers are families looking for healthy and yummy snacks for their kids.
"It's been difficult to keep up with the growth in the specialty grape category," he observed. "We have been blessed with the opportunity to deliver them to the market. Parents are more mindful of what they give to their children. These high flavor grapes are a natural candy. It's great to see this innovation in the grape category which was beginning to decline. There hasn't been much innovation with grapes and they have recently been getting beaten by berries and cherries. With our specialty grapes, we have received excellent feedback from parents that they're happy to offer their kids a healthy snack."
Additionally, Divine Flavor has a license to grow these proprietary varieties in Mexico and it subsequently wanted to take this opportunity. "We see the California region being threatened by several factors, none of which are present in Baja California," he explained. "We also have access to grow certain varieties in Mexican regions which means we can grow them wherever we like within Mexico. We wanted to use that opportunity and expand our growing region."
One region, one grower, helps traceability
To help provide grapes from other regions, Divine Flavor has partnered with growers in those particular areas. The company said, however, that the partnerships are different to the typical grower-partner arrangement in place in many companies. Bon explained that the growers are partners in the company itself, effectively becoming co-owners. Moreover, he said that each region only has one grower. According to Bon, this enables more consistency in flavor and quality, as well as provides improved traceability.
"We joined with growers and formed Divine Flavor International," he shared. "The growers effectively become partners in this company, resulting in a great sense of pride. Each region, whether it be Peru, Chile or Mexico, has one partner which is the grower, exporter and shipper for that region. This allows for consistency in the brand, in food safety and social accountability. For example, if a customer presents feedback about our grapes, we will know exactly who the grower is based on the region the grapes originated."
While exhibiting at PMA, Divine Flavor will have some of its produce on display for visitors to view. But the company said that the team will be focused on presenting its new company strategy, all based on six "pillars". The company already has a message of treating employees well, looking after the communities in which it grows, as well as environmental and social responsibility. It has decided to expand on this and more clearly address its values.
"At PMA, we will have a good display of our products for visitors to our booth to see," shared Michael DuPuis of Divine Flavor. "We have a lot of exciting things to put out there this year, one of which will be the unveiling of our six pillars, which we will talk more about at PMA. The six pillars reflect the key areas we will focus on internally within our business, including quality, food safety, traceability, organic, social responsibility, and sustainability."
"Divine Flavor is in a very good position," he continued. "We are expanding our options and creating more opportunities by filling some of the voids."
Divine Flavor will be at Booth # 2023 at PMA.