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Divine Flavor presents dessert grape menu

Divine Flavor’s dessert menu of table grapes is on tap. Going forward, they will be increasingly available with volumes to meet a great demand.

Divine Flavor LLC is a grower-packer-distributor of 3,000 acres of Mexican grapes. Carlos Bon Jr., the firm’s sales manager, said this spring that in 2018 Divine Flavor is planting vineyards to increase its acreage by a staggering 53 percent.2018-3-6-1353-Carlos-Bon-Divine-FlavorCarlos Bon, sales manager of Divine Flavor Inc., checks a young grape bunch in Pesqueria, Sonora, on March 6.

All these plantings are of organic, proprietary varieties. There are six varieties in this expansion program: Cotton Candy, Jelly Berry, Gummyberry, Candy Heart, Tropical Divine and Sweet Sapphire. These six comprise the firm’s dessert menu. Specific harvest dates vary, but the grapes will be shipped by Divine Flavor from mid-May into the end of July.

“The dessert menu refers to developing these amazing grapes that do not necessarily eat like grapes,” he noted. “This year we have a full dessert menu. Some are still in the early stage and not in big production.” Cotton Candy, Jelly Berry and Gummyberry are producing in commercial volumes.

This spring, the new Candy Heart plantation will produce “maybe 10 pallets.”

Divine Flavor is also maintaining its production of a couple-dozen more traditional varieties. “Tropical Divine and Candy Heart we’re actually selling but there is little volume," he said. “We have a lot of pre-commitments where all of a variety is contracted out” this year. “We will have a growing volume going forward.”

These dessert varieties are expensive and Divine Flavor is packing smaller-volume pouches and clamshells to keep down retail tickets.

Bon stresses that the dessert menu will provide the industry with an extension of grape sales. Because the new grape varieties are very different than traditional table grape varieties, they are consumed differently. “You are buying a very different piece of fruit.” He said its proven that these dessert grapes do not cannibalize the rest of the grape category.

Divine Flavor is constantly testing small volumes of other dessert grapes. After years of promise as something that is truly different, Divine Flavor begins planting those varieties in commercial volumes. The plantings are in Baja and Jalisco, as well as around Sonora, which is Divine Flavor’s primary grape-producing area. Divine Flavor is headquartered in Nogales, AZ.

“Gummyberry is a strawberry gummy-flavored grape," he said. "Its chewy texture along with its strawberry like flavor makes it eating experience like no other.”

The Tropical Divine is especially popular in the United Kingdom. “Most people say it eats like mango. Some people say pineapple," he said. "I think it tastes like peach. But it’s not a grape flavor. It has a high acidity and is different than any flavor of grape I’ve ever eaten. It is a full-blown exclusive for us in Mexico. It’s never been registered in the U.S. It will never be grown there. We’re planting it in Baja to stretch our season as much as possible.”

Bon said the Tropical Divine is a bi-colored — red and orange — grape, generally resembling a Gala apple. “That is a positive. Consumers can clearly tell the difference. It’s not a problem being confused with red or green grapes. It is its own color.”

The black Sweet Sapphire has previously been known and a Witch’s Finger. Divine Flavor has been producing the Sweet Sapphire on a commercial basis for the last couple of seasons.

Bon said the Sweet Sapphire commercial volume this spring was affected more than any other variety produced by Divine Flavor. Mexico’s grape industry as a whole suffered from chilly production weather December through February. The overall industry dropped from a record 21 million boxes exported in 2017 to an average crop size, estimated at 16 million export cases this season.

Thus, Divine Flavor’s coming-out season for Sweet Sapphire volume has been postponed until 2019.

Bon noted the “purple-blackish Jelly Berry is my personal favorite.”

The Candy Heart is a known variety, imported from Chile. “Some say it’s like a red Cotton Candy,” Bon indicated. “It has similar parents as the Cotton Candy. It has a wonderful, different flavor. You have to eat it to know what it tastes like.”

These sweet grapes are a natural cross with Vitis labrusca grapes, which is the family of sweet grapes, including Concords, that are indigenous to the northeastern United States. Labrusca grapes produce sweet wines. The other parent is from the Vitis vinifera family, which have centuries of history in Europe. He said the cross of the two varieties explains why the new grapes “are so unusual.”