Crimson grape vineyards of Uvasdoce, in Monforte, Alicante.
Although the white seedless grape campaign usually lasts until November in Alicante, this year it has finished a month earlier because of the significant losses caused by the impact of powdery mildew (between 25 and 30%) and the shortage of seedless grapes in Murcia. Furthermore, this has been one of the driest years in recent memory and the production costs have been very high, because it has been necessary to irrigate twice as much.
"The market conditions for seedless white grapes have been quite difficult, since there has been very little supply coming from Brazil because of its problems with the rains, so prices are high. South Africa won't hit the market until week 48-49, but when it arrives, the situation will change, because they expect a great production," affirms Miriam Cutillas, head of marketing of Uvasdoce. "At the moment, we are working with our own Crimson grape production, while importing seedless grapes from Peru, Brazil and Italy," she added.
Easy to open take-away packaging is becoming increasingly common.
The campaign has been characterised by low demand in the months of July and August and lower than expected consumption in September and October, which has been due, among other reasons, to the competition from stonefruit until late in the summer. In any case, it remains to be seen how the Christmas and New Year's Eve campaign will develop, with it being the most important one for the Alicante-based company.
Miriam Cutillas, head of marketing at Uvasdoce.
The New Year's Eve tradition of eating 12 grapes is also followed (to a lower extent than in Spain) in Chile, Mexico and some parts of Italy.
Uvasdoce devotes 50% of its production to the domestic market, while focusing mainly on export destinations such as the United Kingdom, France, South Africa, Italy, Scandinavia and Switzerland. "This year, we have started working a lot with South Africa and Switzerland, where we expect to grow even further in the future."
During the Christmas campaign, there are 60 additional workers at the plant.
"We are gradually buying less from other growers because we want to rely for the most part on our production to ensure that our quality is homogeneous, striving also for our plantations to be as close as possible to the packing plant. To this end, we have repurchased properties that we used for grapes many years ago and which had been bought by real estate agencies at the time of the housing bubble. We will see if we manage to produce also in Chile and South Africa in the future, as it would be very interesting to be able to cover the off-station and to keep a better control on prices and quality."
"This year, it has been more noticeable than ever that Spain is taking a firm step towards seedless varieties, since in the off-season we have brought considerably more grapes without seeds than with seeds," affirms the expert. "If the price differential between seedless and seeded grapes was not so high in Spain, we would already be talking about a much higher seedless consumption. The UK no longer consumes any grapes with seeds," she points out.
At the beginning, according to Miriam Cutillas, the seedless varieties suffered a disadvantage because of their calibres and the fact that grapes fell more easily, but now, not only have these issues been corrected, but the varietal innovation is such that, in just 3 years, a variety can be deemed almost obsolete. "We are fortunate to be involved in four of the world's greatest grape variety programs, which is a bit complicated, given that they usually choose to work with companies that are bigger than ours. This campaign, a new farm with 4 new varieties has become productive, and next year we expect another 5 new varieties from another farm to follow suit."
Alfredo Miralles, manager of Uvasoce.
"Grape is a product that, incredibly, continues to be demanded every day around the world, despite the increasing competition from other products available in the market. The seedless grape business was perhaps more profitable in the past, because there was less supply; however, seedless grapes are helping boost consumption, especially among children."
The use of purple has been one of the keys of the success of the brand Uvasdoce.
"We don't understand the price wars for New Year's Eve. There are no grapes!"
According to Miriam Cutillas, during the New Year's Eve celebrations, the price is not an important factor when buying grapes, which is why the consumption of seedless grapes is growing considerably, taking into account that there is a price differential of between 30 and 40 cents for the pack of 12 grapes, since they are imported.
"Surprisingly, there are real price wars between Spanish supermarkets taking place every year, especially for the domestic Aledo grape, which is used to attract customers. It is something that we do not understand, taking into account that it is a product that is scarce at that time. I do not believe that anyone decides to do his/her groceries in a supermarket because of the price of the grapes for New Year, being that it is an essential purchase at any price. These price wars between supermarkets are causing the abandonment of this variety by many growers in favour of other varieties. If they do not change these practices, it will eventually be completely lost and we will have to rely entirely on imports."
This year, there will be 30% less Aledo, as it has hardly rained all year and rain has fallen at the worst time. "It rained for four days in a row and it was very hot. There will be 35% less Aledo grapes due to the impact of rains and, in general, it will be difficult to find good quality grapes, since the campaign of this variety has been advanced by about two weeks, which will cause serious problems in the market."
Miriam Cutillas (Head of Marketing)
Ctra. Monforte-Agost km. 6,9
Partida de las Norias n.º 188
T: +34 965 620 125
M: +34 659670964