Sugrafiftythree, a new early red seedless grape variety to be branded as Ruby Rush, seems to offer new commercial opportunities for growers

Sun World Chris Hanssens Alberto Toro Sugrafiftythree Ruby Rush Northern Cape

Sun World’s Chris Hanssens (left) and Alberto Toro with Sugrafiftythree in the Northern Cape

Heralded as “juicy, crunchy jewels in your mouth”, Sun World says its new Ruby Rush-branded range of early red grapes are sure to have a positive impact on the table grape world.

And now the results of this year’s southern African harvests – from semi-commercial vineyards in the Orange River and test block vineyards in Namibia, Berg River and Hex River – are now in.

And although limited in scale, the varieties have apparently impressed growers with their early performance.

Sun World introduced the Ruby Rush brand in July 2023, featuring the Sugrafiftythree variety. The brand may expand in the future, incorporating other complementary varieties to enhance consumer recognition by ensuring a longer shelf presence throughout the year.

“Sugrafiftythree offers Sun World growers around the world a sustainable red grape with natural colour development, better yields, lower input cost, and great postharvest attributes,” says Sun World’s Paola Barba. “Sun World licensed growers harvested Ruby Rush branded grapes this northern summer in the US, Italy, Spain, and Israel with positive results.”

In South Africa, JC Fölcher, the senior executive responsible for all table grape farms in the Karsten Group, says this season’s results have been very pleasing: “It is very important to note that Sugrafiftythree develops colour naturally and what we have seen this year boosts our confidence.”

He says that in the past there has not been a natural successor or potential replacement for Flame Seedless, and that the arrival of Ruby Rush is of great significance for the early regions.

Good retail reception

The variety has also been well received by South African retailer Woolworths. “This season we received the first samples of Sugrafiftythree. the earliness of the variety is interesting, and berries remain firm postharvest,” says fruit technologist Frans Gelderbom and Letitia Joubert, procurement manager at Woolworths. “We look forward to learning more about the variety as higher volumes become available.”

For the international table grape business, this is a significant development. Observers say there has always been a gap in the market, particularly in the early growing season, for a new range of red seedless varieties which could replace older cultivars – some of which have been around since the 1980s.

Barba also notes that the initial variety sold under the Ruby Rush brand is a “new generation” red grape that is expected to be an ideal replacement for traditional early-season red seedless grapes. “For consumers, it offers a refreshing taste experience during the early season,” she says.

Volumes of Ruby Rush are set to increase globally over the next two to five years as the variety becomes available for growers to plant in other countries.

Fresh Focus South Africa

Mike Knowles Fruitnet

Mike Knowles, Fruitnet

All this next week, Eurofruit is publishing a series of exclusive stories about the South African fresh produce trade. If you want to read more from my visit to the Western Cape and to learn how the province’s fruit growers and exporters plan to overcome some very big challenges, then you have two options: either click here and take out a digital subscribtion to Eurofruit; or head to the Fruitnet stand (Hall 5.2, A-50) at Fruit Logistica and pick up a copy of our Fresh Focus South Africa special, which is part of Eurofruit’s Fruit Logistica Edition · Part II.