It’s an exciting year for the table grape category with over 30 new seedless varieties entering the category and vying for shelf space and consumer attention in 2018. Vanguard is a leading producer of many of these new varieties, bringing everyone on the team and our customers much excitement. These varieties bring positive attributes to the entire supply chain – producing grapes that are better tasting, higher in yield, disease-resistant, and provide consumers with a crunchy, flavorful grape eating experience, a popular attribute of a successful grape.
The challenge and potential confusion that comes with this robust expansion is helping consumers determine which varieties they are purchasing. Retailers strive for “simple, clean merchandising” in the table grape category with many preferring to keep their offerings in generic packs that allow consumers to “see” the grapes but do not necessarily call out the specific variety (there are some exceptions, including the premium clamshell offerings). By opting to forego the varietal name on the bag the look and feel of packaging is kept clean but we are potentially doing a disservice to consumers who might be curious about the varietal options.
We’ve discussed the evolution of grape packaging in a previous blog post and it continues to be a much-discussed topic in the industry as we navigate this conundrum affecting all levels of the supply chain. For example, Vanguard is growing Sweet Globe® and Sugar Crisp®, both of which are green grapes offering the consumer a spectacular eating experience, and both have received incredible feedback from consumers around the world. However, if a consumer cannot identify the grapes in their favorite market as a Sweet Globe® or a Sugar Crisp® will they “blind purchase” a premium priced grape? What if it’s not what they thought it was? How will they find it on the shelf?
Apples are a great example of another fresh fruit category where a number of different varieties have exploded into the market. With unique PLU’s the intrepid consumer can at least try to identify their “favorite” type of apple. So how can we encourage this type of varietal loyalty in the grape category? It’s an interesting crossroads and not an easy challenge for retailers to tackle. We greatly respect our retail partners here in North America and around the world who continue to help the category evolve by making purchasing decisions as simple and easy for consumers as possible. We’ve created multiple pack styles to respond to our retail partners needs.
There’s an opportunity to try a different approach in our Asian markets where the seedless grape category is nowhere near as mature as it is in North America, but developing quickly. We believe that we will learn a great deal by introducing these very special grapes to our Asian customers by highlighting their varietal names, using product packaging as an opportunity to clearly call out each grape by its varietal name. Packaging at its best should inspire, excite and educate.
Time will tell and show us how grapes will perform and if consumer-purchasing decisions are based around certain varieties.