Dirk Winkelmann, President of Vanguard Direct, a Vanguard International Group company, recently shared an update on the 2022-2023 grape season with Fresh Plaza. Here is a look at that conversation.
The transition from California grapes to imported grapes will likely happen earlier this year. “Supply for the domestic U.S. market is adequate for the moment, despite early season weather issues. We do expect the California crop to finish early this season, which will open the door for an earlier start for Peru,” says Winkelmann, who notes that the transition period will begin in November. “Retailers are understanding of that, so they have been earlier in contracting and making commitments for imported product.”
While supplies are still coming largely out of California, northern Peru has started up with a limited volume of grapes as has Brazil. “Due to slightly cooler weather, we look to be slightly delayed by a few days in the Ica area, but will catch up quickly to our harvest plan,” says Winkelmann. “We expect to begin our harvest of Ivory the third week of November with arrivals to the Asian and U.S. markets in the latter half of December. Sweet Celebration should begin 7-10 days after the Ivory. Our final arrivals to the U.S. and Asia will be toward the middle to end of April with sales going through the middle of May.”
With its own production in Peru, Vanguard Direct is pulling out two varieties: Candy Snaps and Midnight Beauty due to a number of issues. “We have had an important transition over the past few years to planting the most globally desirable green varieties and expect to be one of the largest suppliers of those varieties from the Ica area, those varieties being Ivory, Sweet Globe, and Autumncrisp. Additionally, we will continue with a strong, complementary volume of the most desirable new red varieties that will be able to fill the significant drop in reds from Chile,” says Winkelmann.
Meanwhile, though demand overall looks strong, Winkelmann says it’s unsettled in some markets. “Consumption is the unknown right now. Inflation will have an impact on buying patterns and the retail price point will be a key determinant for attracting the consumer’s purchasing decisions,” he says.
Currently, pricing from California is still at promotable levels, though Winkelmann says the price points nationally at retail don’t necessarily reflect current offers.
All in all, Vanguard is yet again looking at a different season this year. “The challenges will be different, though there is lingering concern over some of the same supply chain and logistics issues we faced last year such as port congestion, delayed ocean transit times, unreliable carrier services, and lack of container availability,” he says. “Our primary concern this year is the potential impact of the global economy overall.”