Grapes Now Drive Consumer Purchases

“Grapes are one of the most important year-round commodities in the department. You have to have them year-round and good quality year-round,” says Mike Roberts, vice president of produce operations for Harps Food Stores, a 151-store chain headquartered in Springdale, AR.

Five ways to buy and sell more North American grapes this summer.

Americans have gone gangbusters for table grapes. Per capita consumption reached 8.64 pounds for the 2022/2023 season, a record high in the last two-plus decades, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ERS data from 2000 to 2023.

Year-round availability is a big reason. Said another way, grapes represented 5.1% of total produce sales, and 10.4% of total fruit sales for the 52 weeks ending May 11, 2024, according to Nielsen Total U.S. data. Yet, there’s nothing like the draw of fresh seasonal North American grapes in the late spring, summer and fall to drive consumer purchase and pop-in-your-mouth consumption.

“Grapes are one of the most important year-round commodities in the department. You have to have them year-round and good quality year-round.”

— Mike Roberts, Harps Food Stores, Springdale, AR

“Grapes are one of the most important year-round commodities in the department. You have to have them year-round and good quality year-round,” says Mike Roberts, vice president of produce operations for Harps Food Stores, a 151-store chain headquartered in Springdale, AR.

“For our stores, generally red, black, and green grapes will run 6% of produce department sales throughout the year, with some spikes during the holidays like Christmas and Easter and at the start of the California season.”

Here are five ways to maximize the buying and selling of North American table grapes this season:


The U.S. grape season typically begins in June in the Coachella Valley in Southern California. It concludes in the San Joaquin Valley around November, depending on the year’s conditions, according to Elena Hernandez, director of global marketing insights for Sun World International, headquartered in Bakersfield, CA.

“Before the U.S. season starts from May to mid-June, grapes from Mexico serve as a fruit source for the USA,” she adds.

The Sonora Mexico 2024 grape season started in May with excellent quality and timely harvest, says Eloy Suarez, director for Mexico at Fresh Farms, in Rio Rico, AZ. Suarez says the industry forecast predicts a volume of 24 million boxes this season.

Fernando Soberanes, vice president of sales at Long Beach for the Los Angeles, CA-based Giumarra Companies, also expects to supply “excellent quality with promotional Mexican grape volumes in June.”

Divine Flavor, the largest supplier of Mexican-grown Cotton Candy variety grapes, has extended its Sonora season with plantings in Caborca, which harvests until mid-July.

“The advantage is the high flavor at the tail end of the season and just as California’s Central Valley starts,” says Michael DuPuis, quality assurance and public relations manager for the Nogales, AZ-based grower. “This means, for example, our Sweet Celebration will brix at 22 to 24 at the same time a Sugarone from California hits the market with a brix of 18 to 19.”

The California table grape season began in the Coachella Valley in mid-May, with harvest expected to start in the San Joaquin Valley in late June or early July and last into early December.

The initial estimate for the 2024 California table grape season is 94.4 million 19-pound boxes, down slightly from the 2020-2022 average of 96.6 million boxes, according to the California Table Grape Commission (CTGC), in Fresno, CA.

Some retailers put together supply plans before the season begins; others make purchase and merchandising decisions with a short lead time.

According to John Pandol, director of special projects at Pandol Bros., Delano, CA, there are pros and cons to each approach. “Manufacturing and airfreighting custom bags from the Far East at the last minute, hoping the bar codes are scannable, is stressful and expensive. However, ordering safety stock or the retailer not using as much product as planned sends a lot of money in unused or obsolete packaging to the landfill.”

Pandol says the harvest is often slower or faster, and special packs or specific varieties are picked too early or stored longer than needed. “Retailers who make decisions closer to the day, planning by the forecast and not the calendar, avoid these issues. They get the right varieties and the freshest grapes and can take advantage of special pricing.”


For several years, red and green seedless grapes sold equally, with some weeks one beating the other, says Harps Food Stores’ Roberts. “Recently, though, green seedless grapes have been more popular with consumers over the last few years.”

A significant shift toward green varieties gaining prevalence, altering the traditional ratio of red to green grapes, is aligned with international trends in the industry, according to Piers Hanbury, executive director of apples, pears, and category development for Vancouver, British Columbia-headquartered Oppy.

“Due to the excellence of some new green varieties, they are now surpassing red grapes in popularity for the first time, though red continues to perform well,” Hanbury says.

This season will be the first for Sun Grape California LLC, an Oppy Company, a joint venture between Sun Grape USA and Oppy that started in February, in time for the Mexican grape season. Sun Grape California will officially start shipping products to market in early July from a new cold storage facility in Delano.

Varieties of grapes, other than red, black, and green, added over the past few years have increased SKUs and sales and made the category more of a sales driver.

California produces over 80 varieties of table grapes. Of the 2020-2022 three-year average volume for California table grapes, green and red grapes represented 45% each, and black grapes represented 8%. In 2023, the top five varieties were Autumn King (green), Sheegene-21 (green), Flame Seedless (red), Sheegene-20 (red), and Scarlet Royal (red), representing 46% of the total volume, according to CTGC data.

“Traditional grapes still sell best overall, but in today’s sets, you have to have some variety of grapes other than red, black, and green to get the most out of your category and satisfy your customers,” says Roberts.

“Varieties added over the past few years have increased SKUs and sales,” Roberts adds. “Cotton Candy can add 2% or more to the commodity’s contribution to the department. Other varieties like Christmas Crunch, Candy Snap, Grape Jammers, and others have made the category more of a sales driver for the department.”

Kathleen Krantz, senior director of perishables for New Leaf Community Markets, a six-store chain based in Santa Cruz, CA, agrees. “Varietal development is second to the year-round availability of quality grapes to boost sales of this fruit. Some varietals, particularly Cotton Candy, now boast name recognition.

“That said, we have seen the bulk Air Chief grapes from the San Joaquin Valley sell great in our departments around back-to-school in the early fall. That crop’s flavor and taste profile is one that customers and staff wait for all year long. This is more about the brand versus variety, but illustrates the desire for quality, consistent product.”

Consumers primarily base grape purchases on color and price. However, Sun World International’s Hernandez says consumers are savvy about brand recognition. “We want to encourage brand awareness among consumers to drive loyalty and repeat purchases. Ruby Rush is one of our newest table grape brands set to revolutionize the early-season grape offerings. It’s an ideal replacement for traditional early-season red seedless grapes, like Flame Seedless and other red varieties throughout the season.”

Today, most retailers have a two-tier program, says Mitch Wetzel, vice president of Sunview Marketing International, in Delano, CA. “One tier is selling grapes as a commodity by color. The second is offering proprietary or branded SKUs or an organic.”

Sammy Cacciatore, president of Sun Grape California LLC – An Oppy Company, sees an increase in demand for organic grapes, “though it’s not at a level that significantly impacts the market. Proprietary varieties are also gaining traction in the organic space.”

According to Nielsen Total U.S. data, organic grapes represented 2.6% of organic produce sales, and 6.4% of organic fruit sales for the 52 weeks ending May 11, 2024.


Pouch-pack types of grape packaging comprised 70% of the total volume in 2023. Pouches include flat-bottom, gusset, handle, pouch, and stand-up bags. Clamshells represented 23% of the total volume, according to data from the CTGC.

“Some retailers prefer small packaging, others go for larger ones, and some look for cost-effective options like bags. But overall, we’re seeing an increase in the use of sealed packaging with fixed weight, due to the rise of online sales and self-check-out queues,” says Fresh Farms’ Suarez. “Scanning a SKU is easier than having to weigh each item individually and, as everybody has experienced, self-checkout is where most retailers are trending.”

Pouch-pack types of grape packaging comprised 70% of the total volume in 2023. But the industry is also seeing an increase in the use of sealed packaging with fixed weight, due to the rise of online sales and self-check-out.

While bi- and tri-color packs have their place, Sun Grape California’s Cacciatore adds, “They aren’t gaining significant traction, due to the challenges of packing different varieties in different conditions.”
Sustainable packaging options are becoming more critical.

“Field bags, clamshells, and fixed-weight packaging in sustainable options are gaining popularity among consumers. We also offer loose pack grapes, a packaging-free alternative, to retailers,” says Jon Zaninovich, president of Jasmine Vineyards Inc., in Delano, CA.


Handling grapes correctly through the supply chain, from grower to retail display, can reduce shrinkage and increase profits.

“Store grape boxes immediately in refrigeration when received. The ideal condition for grapes is 30-32 F with 90-95% humidity,” says Sun World International’s Hernandez. “To prevent dehydration, don’t store grapes near cooling units in the path of direct air. Like most berries, grapes tend to absorb odors, so avoid storing them next to green onions or other pungent produce.”

Refrigerated retail displays are best, adds Pandol. “Never stack bags more than two deep or clamshells three deep. Stack them high; your sales will die.”


Displaying grapes in the produce lobby at New Leaf Community Markets builds “big excitement around the California arrivals,” says Krantz.

At Harps Food Stores, “our schematics have a basic set of green seedless grapes on the base shelf with red and black above it. Then, Cotton Candy, Carnival or a Candy Snap or a red variety that is premium on the eye-level shelf to show customers the great tasting items we offer,” says Roberts.

Some grape varietals, particularly Cotton Candy, now boast name recognition, and varietal development is second to the year-round availability of quality grapes to boost grape sales.

“We often display Cotton Candy grapes in promotional spots in the front or middle of the department, sometimes even off refrigeration, to maximize sales,” he adds. “A tactic that works is one I learned from an industry veteran. That is, to display cherries next to green seedless grapes to highlight the color of both fruits. It is an impressive display when you can do so.”

Fresh Farms started the second year of its Taste to Believe marketing campaign with its Mexican grapes. The company focused on its candy line of grapes, such as its Cotton Candy, Candy Snaps and Candy Hearts.

These varieties are displayed with informational materials and demo sampling opportunities. The campaign also includes weekly print and digital ads, social media promotion, local radio and billboards. Jewel-Osco, a 188-store chain based in Itasca, IL, is participating for the second year.

This season, the CTGC is launching a global marketing campaign to drive consumer demand for California table grapes in the U.S. and 21 target global markets. It’s called Happy, Healthy Grapes from California, and includes three focus areas — share, snack and add.

Share focuses on ways to share grapes on holidays and celebrations. Snack targets the myriad of ways to snack on grapes. Add centers on adding grapes to recipes as a signature ingredient. The commission provides retailers that promote California table grapes in target markets with a brand asset kit that offers a variety of images, videos and messages.

Finally, with the inflation of the last few years, there is concern about pushing prices too high, says Pandol. “Costs in the vineyard and the store are up. Analysis of category data from 2023 showed normal prices in the $2.99 to $3.99 range, and ad prices in the mid-$2 range are what works.”