During the summer months, Italy is usually the most popular grape market. Staay Food Group, in the Netherlands, kicked the season off at the beginning of the month. They got their first Black Magic and Millennium Seedless grapes from Sicily. Two weeks ago, the first grapes from mainland Italy also arrived. "The market's empty and prices are currently good. We expect a season with higher volumes than last year. And with higher quality fruit too," says Koos Nap of Staay-Hispa, with satisfaction.
Select, small-scale growers
This importer sells these grapes under the Nero Premium, Didonna, and Supreme labels. "Our house brand, Nero Premium, is reserved for quality grapes. These are from small-scale growers we select ourselves. These family businesses are found only in Puglia's Rutigliano/Polignano region. We get new arrivals of these grapes three to four times a week. They come in 4 x 1kg, 4.5kg, and 5kg packs. There are also 10 x 500g or 10 x 1kg trays available for programs."
"Then, we have a trump card with our Puglian partner, Didonna. This company has 70 hectares of grapes and employs more than 100 people. Last year, they produced 6 million kg of grapes. We sold about 1,2 million kgs of that," says Koos. The company offers Staay Food Group grapes under the Didonna and Supreme labels. These grapes are available in EPS, 5kg cardboard boxes, and 7kg wooden boxes. Here too, small packs of 500g or 1kg, or other sizes, are possible.
Black Magic and Victoria grapes
"We only begin when the grapes' Brix level is perfect. That's what we are never first on the market. That's also perfect for the market situation. Because at the start, you often have to deal with the switch from the Egyptian season. The market is clean now, and Italy can start in full." The importer doesn't only get Victoria, Black Magic, and Millennium grapes. They're currently packing Summer Royal and Sublima grapes too. These will soon be followed by the first Palieri, Red Globe, and Italias. The Italian grape season runs to the end of November. Sometimes, it even ends as late as December.
Koos says there's a significant trend on the Italian grape market - the switch to seedless varieties. "Ten years ago, the whole Didonna supply was still pitted grapes. Now, the split is 60% pitted and 40% seedless. I expect that ratio to reverse in the next two to three years. That counts for all the colors. Older people still buy pitted grapes. But it's not an option for the younger generation. When it comes to breeding, the entire focus is on seedless varieties," Koos explains.
"We offer all the packaging possibilities clients could want. We have, however, noticed that more and more clients are switching to 5kg cardboard packaging. Paper bags are gaining popularity too. On the other hand, many clients, especially in Belgium, are still enamored with the 7kg wooden boxes' look." Koos is confident about the grape market's coming weeks. "When there's a surplus of cheap summer fruit, grape consumption stagnates. Now, the nectarine supply, for example, is limited. People will make other choices," Koos concludes.