Between “training[1] and pruning,” grapevines can require more maintenance than a poodle competing at The National Dog Show. From Dionysus[2] to the Egyptian Empire, the grape has been a symbolic fruit associated with deities and royalty.

Though the grape seems to be almost synonymous with wine, the modern table grape is very different to the wine grape. Winefolly.com describes table grapes as “fat and sassy” in contrast to wine grapes, “lean and mean.” The table grape is bred to satisfy the needs of the consumer eating the fruit fresh. Table grapes are often seedless, with thin skins, thick pulp, less sweet and less acidic than their wine counterparts. In other words, wine grapes are bred for potency, and table grapes are bred for their standalone flavor profile.

>>Check-out our article on Grape Tomatoes for a discussion on the “convenience factor” driving produce demand. But for the need to rinse grapes, they are the perfect produce snack pack. The basic litmus test of the produce snack pack is: (a) does not require utensils, (b) unlikely to require a napkin, and (c) does not require a devout commitment to a healthy lifestyle.<<

Red Globe grapes and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes both descend from the vitis vinifera – the common grape vine.  The cultivation and domestication of the grapevine appears to have occurred between the seventh and the fourth millennia BC in an area between the Black Sea and Iran (i.e. present-day Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan).[3]  

Growing conditions

Grapes are considered temperate zone plants, requiring a cool winter to meet chilling requirements and a warm growing season. The majority of grapes are grown in California, and in Mexico near California (i.e. Sonora, Baja California). The majority of Mexican grapes peak as an early season to the grapes from neighboring California. Those in Nogales know when grape season begins by the influx of product that fills the coolers. Imports from Mexico represent 14.6% of table grapes sold in the United States. California is the largest domestic producer, representing 57.4% of total movement in 2019.

Grapevines are relatively easy to grow. The hardest part of grape production is pruning and training. To prune well and properly, one must have an understanding of grape growth.  To prevent the vine from producing too much fruit (overbearing), [you] must prune to keep only some of the 1-year-old wood or canes and remove the rest. Overbearing delays fruit ripening, reduces fruit quality, and weakens the vine. The site must be sunny. Grapes can be grown on a wide range of soil types and soil nutrient status (i.e. pH). Common grapevine pathogens are Phyllozera, Oidium and mildews, but careful breeding can minimize the vines susceptibility to these.Grape plants’ longevity spans between 50 to 100 years, though typical commercial productivity is closer to 22-27 years, assuming proper care. They propagate with relative ease, but well-established plants cannot be transplanted.  

California

California grapes come in three colors: red, green, and black and are available May through January.[4] According to the California Table Grape Commission, the crop value of the state’s 2019 harvest was $2.14 billion.

Table grapes don’t have well established pricing patterns. While overall, prices diminish as movement grows, there isn’t a very well-defined price floor. It seems that for the most cost-effective growers, prices below $0.75/lb are a non-starter.

Calendar Years: 2015 - 2019
     
Average Price/Pound  $         1.09
     
Standard Deviation  $         0.28
     
Min Price/Pound  $         0.52
     
Max Price/Pound  $         1.95

Table grapes have had very modest gains in movement over the past 20 years. Compared to our benchmark year, 2000, grapes have been increasing at a (compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.1%, or 23% higher over the 20 years. Since population is growing at a higher rate, on a population-adjusted basis, grape consumption per capita is at a slight decline. Grapes have a dense, downward-sloping cluster of data points (red ellipse). If data points inside the red ellipse were horizontal, it would indicate that there’s a price floor (a price point when it no longer economical for the product to be picked & packed).  The longer grapes are on the vine, the sweeter they become. Once picked, grapes will not continue to ripen. Therefore, the data points in the red ellipse are consistent with a scenario where growers bide time waiting for the highest possible price, and delay flooding the market with supply. In contrast, the datapoints inside the purple ellipse, show an unorganized smattering of price-to-movement relationships. This data suggests there is significant pricing variability under 54 million pounds of movement.

ProduceIQ Methodology

The ProduceIQ calculation methodology includes a wide variety of table grapes. Within a grape varietal, there are varying sizes that correspond to differing prices. Red Globe grapes hold a significant share of the total grapes sold, and because they are relatively less expensive, they dampen the overall price of grapes in our index. Because of the ubiquity of the Red Globe (it is sold nearly 52 weeks per year over the entirety of our dataset), it is an anchor for the grapes portion of the ProduceIQ Index. White Seedless, is less expensive than Red Globe, but only sold in the latter half of the year. The pricier grapes are the less commonly grown; Prime, Flame, and Black seedless. However, the premiums commanded by these varietals are modest. Given the profitability of grape harvests is heavily reliant on picking efficiency, the cost-benefit analysis does not support shifting production toward the more boutique varietals. Across (nearly) all grape varietals, we do see prices for larger grape sizes are higher than for medium-sized grapes. For table grapes, medium is usually the smallest size bucket.

Autumn King Princess
Autumn Royal Red Globe
Black Corinth Red Seedless
Black Seedless Scarlet Royal
Crimson Seedless Sugraone
Flame Seedless Summer Royal
Ivory Sweet Celebration
Perlette Thompson Seedless
Perlon Vintage Red
Prime White Seedless Type






 

 

 

References:

[1] “Training consists of tying the shoot, removing lateral shoots from the base, and tipping the shoot when it reaches desired head height.” https://coststudyfiles.ucdavis.edu/uploads/cs_public/be/c7/bec790f2-3cb8-4a07-ac0d-ccfdcb067bb8/2018tablegrapessjvautumnkingfinaldraft.pdf

[2] Also known as Bacchus (Greco-Roman mythology)

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2826248/

[4] https://www.grapesfromcalifornia.com/all-about-grapes/

In this article: Grapes

Author Image
Flavia Garcia, Econometric Analyst, ProduceIQ
Flavia Garcia, Econometric Analyst, ProduceIQ
Flavia is driven to make the ProduceIQ Index a reliable proxy for the industry, and useful in identifying actionable market dynamics. Flavia earned an A.B. in Economics at Barnard College, Columbia University; an M.Sc. in Finance and Econometrics at Queen Mary, University of London; and is currently a PhD student at the Vienna University of Economics and Business.