Chile grapes

New production regions, better varieties and improvements in storage techniques are eroding traditional supply windows in the global table grape market and will require a more disciplined approach from producers and retailers as they face up to an ever more challenging future, according to Manuel Alcaíno of Chilean consultancy Decofrut.

Setting the scene at the inaugural Global Grape Summit, which took place in London earlier this month, Alcaíno told delegates that the days of high prices in undersupplied windows were a thing of the past and that today’s producers had to be more efficient and have well-defined strategies in place.

Today’s market calls for more moderation, discipline and pragmatism from both producers and retailers, who should look to forge new relationships based on loyalty and trust rather than chasing short-term profits.

One of the key themes of the day-long conference was how to manage the proliferation of new varieties coming onto the market without creating confusion among consumers. The rise of the discounters has pushed grape prices down in recent years and new offerings will play a crucial role in preventing further commoditisation and boosting overall consumption.

Delegates heard how there is a need to develop products that satisfy the demands of ‘Ferrari’ consumers – those looking for premium varieties with a unique flavour profile – and ‘Fiesta’ consumers who simply want better consistency in the standard green, red and black varieties they buy. In both cases, understanding how these varieties perform in different growing regions will be critical to their success.

Figuring out which new varieties to stock and how best to promote them to consumers also poses a major headache for retailers. Unlike the berry industry, which is in the hands of a few powerful breeders and marketers, the grape category is highly fragmented and this can hamper efforts to bring new products to market.

Delegates agreed that a more collaborative approach between all the stakeholders in the value chain would facilitate the rollout of these varieties, and that marketing costs should be shared between the breeder, producer, importer and retailer.

Looking ahead to the future, the conference heard how, in order to be successful, marketing strategies would need to be adapted to the new retail landscape and to the next generation of consumers. China alone has 829 million online users, with Millennials and Generation Z making up almost three-quarters of this total, and brands will have to shine on the shelf and online if they are to make an impact. George Liu of Chinese importer and distributor FrutaCloud explained how creating a story behind a brand through the use of video, images and text can help to make a product more appealing to consumers.