Grapeco Farms making a name for itself in table grapes

From The Produce News | 26 July 2023

Overview of table grapes from California in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on July 25, 2023. 

In January, longtime veterans of the California grapes industry — Jared Lane and Robert Cadena — joined forces to create Grapeco Farms LLC, a new company with the goal to provide a year-round supply of high-flavor tri-color varieties to retailers.

“Robert handles a lot of the operations and I handle the majority of the sales,” said Lane, CEO for the Delano, CA-based company. “He’s worn every hat from the operational standpoint so he knows how to make sure everything goes good on the back end. On the front end, I know what we need, so we work well off each other and complement each other.”

Six months in, and the company is already making strong inroads in in the industry on the way to fulfilling its goal. It’s done that by relying on the expertise of the partners and bringing in a savvy team — such as Marc Serpa as vice president of sales.

“We’ve put together a really solid California program with a lot of very good, newer flavored varieties, and we will have consistent supply, basically year-round,” Lane said. “We’ve put together a bunch of higher-end, better quality fruit and feel we can supply our customers with some of the best fruit out of California.”

Due to the cooler spring, the California grape season has been later than normal, with one large heat wave that came in already making things challenging, and another wave expected the weekend of July 15 – 16.

grape volumes by history 6

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

“We don’t know the impact that will have on the fruit, but there was a little bit of loss because of the first heat wave,” Lane said. “All the varieties are delayed a little bit. It’s hard to tell about the later varieties because it’s still two months before they get harvested. But as of right not, everything is 10 days late, plus or minus.”

Among the varieties expected to do well this season are Sweet Globe, Jack’s Salute and Great Green.

“All those varieties are growing in volume,” Lane said. “We’ll also have added volume of Candy Snaps this year.”

One thing Lane knows from experience is that to be successful in the grape biz, you need to have quality fruit on the shelves, and that’s a main driver for Grapeco.

“When people are looking at what kind of fruit they buy, they want something that’s relatively a great size and with great flavor, and that’s the key to success in the table grape industry,” Lane said. “Production costs are obviously relevant for being profitable, but you have to produce a good product.”

Grapeco is expected to produce a little under 2 million boxes of table grapes out of California this year and the company’s plan is to expand in the years ahead.

The company is facing the same challenges that most have been dealing with for the last couple of years—lack of labor and higher prices—but one challenge less this year is that water is available in California, which has helped.

“We’d like to grow the company to become a year-round supplier of table grapes, predominantly on the import deal will be predominantly on the West Coast,” Lane said.

“What I want is to be known for having the highest quality and the best service available.”

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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