California table grapes expected to increase in 2023
Table grapes are immensely important to the state of California as they are among the most valued crops in the state, recording $2.13 billion in 2022.
“Grapes from California are important to the rest of the country as well because 99 percent of all commercially grown table grapes in the U.S. come from the Golden State,” said Kathleen Nave, president and CEO of the California Table Grape Commission. “The consistent sunshine, rich and fertile soil, and access to fresh mountain water make the Coachella and San Joaquin valleys the ideal place to produce table grapes.”
Since its establishment in 1967, the California Table Grape Commission has assisted California table grape growers to create and expand markets for each season’s crop.
The 2022 table grape season resulted in 95.1 million boxes of table grapes. The initial crop estimate for 2023 is 96.9 million 19-lb boxes, up slightly from 2022.
“As harvesting begins, the high cost of production is a real issue that California table grape growers face and thus a major challenge is competition from imported grapes which are often lower cost,” Nave said.
To combat import competition and increase global demand for California table grapes, the commission has an aggressive marketing campaign planned for 2023.
“The campaign motivates retailers to move volume throughout the season and motivates shoppers to choose California grapes,” Nave said, “Retail promotion elements of the campaign provide a variety of incentives such as digital promotions, including shopper app and website advertising, coupons and rewards as well as television and radio advertising.”
Shopper elements of the campaign include social media advertising; influencer communication; and a variety of video and editorial content. The marketing campaign highlights that California grapes are high-quality, safe, healthy and delicious, and that choosing Grapes from California helps support the growers, farmworkers, their families and the rural communities in which they live.
“This season the commission is debuting 11 new videos in its ongoing California Goodness video series,” Nave said. “The videos highlight several themes, including the pride growers and farmworkers have in the product they produce, opportunities the industry creates and fosters and outlooks on the future.”
There are more than 80 varieties of table grapes grown in California, each with unique characteristics and timing. The top 15 varieties account for 76 percent of the volume. Among those, the top five-volume varieties are Autumn King, Scarlet Royal, Sheegene-20, Flame Seedless and Sheegene-21.
Success in the table grape industry is not easy and the California Table Grape Commission works to foster an environment in which California table grape growers can succeed.
“To be a successful table grape grower requires vision, a commitment to the long-term, an ability to focus on the season at hand while investing for the future, a high tolerance for risk, a willingness to ride Mother Nature’s roller coaster, and an ability to find the optimism to continue searching for a solution in the face of ongoing challenges,” Nave said.
“It takes brains and guts and perseverance. It takes a great team and a belief that providing people with a beautiful, healthy, and safe product is worth the cost.”
In big new at the commission, Ian LeMay, president of the California Fresh Fruit Association, will become president & CEO of the California Table Grape Commission in the spring of 2025 when Nave retires.
Nave, who joined the commission in 1987, has served in the lead staff role since January 1999 when she succeeded Bruce Obbink.