As part of a deal with Sunkist, Bravante, a California grower and shipper of table grapes, hopes to enlarge its growing operation as well as help grow the Sunkist brand of grapes. Already in the second year of the agreement, they see a bright future ahead.
Ron Wikum, table grape category manager for Bravante, explained that the deal has Bravante supply table grapes for the Sunkist brand. All of the grapes Bravante grows are now marketed under the Sunkist label, but Wikum and his staff still handle the selling.
"We're really concentrating on the domestic part of the business with Sunkist right now," said Wikum. "They're trying to learn the grape business, so we're training their quality control staff on the things we know." At the same time, Bravante is actively looking to expand so they can market even more fruit through Sunkist's well-known brand.
"We currently have about 1,250 acres, with 600 of those in production and about 250 acres that have been replanted and will soon come into production and the rest with outside growers," he said. "But we're always looking for more acreage. We're looking at property on almost a daily basis, and as soon as we find the right land, we'll grow bigger, and we'll grow bigger fast." Driving their expansion is their production goal of 2 million boxes, and while Wikum doesn't see that happening in the next couple of years, he predicts significant growth in the future.
"In five years, I see us shipping 2 million boxes of grapes and 2.5 million boxes of citrus," he said. "I also see us having a stronger relationship with Sunkist." That relationship could help them move their increasing supplies of grapes through a recognizable brand, even though moving fruit wasn't much of a problem this year, Wikum pointed out.
"Though we were a little light on production, this was a very good season," he said. "Everything we put in a box was sold and shipped. We're normally selling grapes into December, but this year we sold out before Thanksgiving, around the middle of November." That kind of demand meant they didn't experience the usual lull during August, and prices were also higher this year.
"This season started about two weeks early in the San Joaquin Valley and it just kept going," he added. "This year has been phenomenal."
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