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Fruit Royale enjoying status quo amid abnormality

When Fruit Royale Managing Partner Louie Galvan looks around him he sees a situation where there is no longer a true “normal,” yet his firm is experiencing a season of status quo.

He noted that the Delano, CA, grower-shipper has no new packs or varieties this year and expects to continue on its same trajectory of increased production providing grapes throughout the year from its normal sources. Though normal is a difficult word to use these days.

“I’m not sure there is a ‘normal’ anymore,” he said. “It looks like we’re six days later than normal (in terms of picking) but what’s normal? There is no normal anymore. Every year is different.”

On May 23, he said Fruit Royale’s San Joaquin Valley growers were expecting to begin picking Flame Seedless on July 8 followed by black seedless Summer Royals on July 11 or 12. But as he spoke, the weather was cool and he wasn’t sure there wouldn’t be a further delay to the start of the season.

California’s San Joaquin Valley growers are scratching their heads this year as they were hit with a fairly heavy “winter” storm in mid-May that brought hail to the valley and snow up in the mountains. That weather condition was considered highly unusual for that time of year, but Galvan indicated that unusual weather seems to occur more often than not these days. He said that the late start for the San Joaquin Valley follows an equally late start for California’s Coachella Valley earlier in May and the continued delay in major production from Mexico, an area from which Fruit Royale sources a great deal of grapes.

“We keep waiting for Mexico’s massive crop,” he said that day, adding that in his 20-plus years of sourcing grapes from below the border he has never seen such cool weather in Mexico at this time of year. “We’re going to have to put our selling shoes on for next six weeks to move that crop.”

He added that on May 23 in 2018 the Mexican grape crop had already been in peak production for two weeks but this year — with a significantly bigger crop — volume shipments had yet to occur. “It’s been very cool down there,” he said, noting that May temperatures were more than 10 degrees cooler than “normal.”

But Galvan was optimistic that an orderly marketing situation will still be maintained because, as he said before, all areas are late so Mexico and Coachella should still be able to market their grape volume before California’s San Joaquin Valley vineyards gets going in earnest. “I’m expecting decent, promotable volume from here by the third week of July,” he said of California’s Central Valley.

With regard to the ever-changing varietal situation, the Fruit Royale executive said his firm is participating in the newer, high flavor varieties but it will have no brand new varieties this year. “This is our third year of Magenta, which we should have the first week of August. We will also have Ivory by the end of July.”

Galvan said it is no mystery why these newer varieties are catching on.

“They are bigger with better quality. They taste better and they hold better and the consumer prefers them better.”

He said the new varieties do present a challenge to growers as it takes several years to figure out how these varieties react to different climatic conditions. And it doesn’t make it any easier that there doesn’t appear to be standard climatic condition to gauge against anymore.

Fruit Royale continues to tout the high-graphic, stand-up pouch bag for its grapes. It’s a popular pack and shows off the product very well. Galvan said the company installed a new packing line two years ago to facilitate the packing of fixed weight bags and punnets.