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Let Flavor Lead

Let Flavor Lead

Flavor is the President of Jasmine Vineyards.

That is, of course, my own writerly observation—for Jon Zaninovich is the visionary behind this President’s execution. Although, I think he’d agree with my interpretation just as well.

“To a certain extent, new flavors drive demand, because shoppers will go out of their way for the grapes they love,” he told me. “Once they’ve had a taste of our premium varieties, they remember the name Jasmine Vineyards and look for us time and time again.”

The presidency of flavor can be traced all the way back to the founding family’s immigration to the United States from Croatia. All of the Zaninovich “nonas” (grandmothers) married the harvest of the Croatian Adriatic Sea and the fruit they grew on the islands of Hvar and Vis to craft delicious recipes that would live on long into the future. You can find one such dish, the Dalmatian Cioppino featuring red seedless grapes, amongst our What the Fork (WTF) spreads in this issue.

Today, Sweet Globe, Summer Crunch, and Sweet Celebration are but a few of the tantalizing varieties that headline Jasmine Vineyards’ dazzling portfolio. Evident of its proactivity in the space, the grower is seeing a spike in demand for green seedless grapes in both Korea and Japan, while its red seedless variety, Sweet Celebration, is garnering attention in the U.S.

“Sweet Celebration bunches, as well as the individual berries, are huge. It’s a really gorgeous variety that is firm, crunchy, juicy, and sweet. The color is a brilliant raspberry hue, and the flavor is similar to that of a cherry,” Jon said. “Our Hawaiian grocery partners are known to promote the variety itself, which is less common in the retail space as a whole. Any time they help make that connection for shoppers, we see a natural boost in consumer demand.”

“Once they’ve had a taste of our premium varieties, they remember the name Jasmine Vineyards and look for us time and time again.”

Jon Zaninovich, President, Jasmine Vineyards

As part of its flavor-driven strategy, Jasmine Vineyards will strategically phase out several varieties and replace them with new ones that are entirely unique to the market. In 2018, for example, the company phased out green varieties like Thompson, Princess, and Sweet Sunshine to introduce Summer Crunch, Great Green, and Sweet Globe. Although the former typically performed well both in the field and on the shelf, Jon said that, after several years of production, it’s simply time for something new.

“We have to keep our eyes (and taste buds) on the lookout for those favorable qualities that are slightly ahead of the market so we can stay in front of that demand,” he reiterated.

Furthermore, Jasmine Vineyards knows that shoppers are always looking for healthy snacking options, and there’s nothing healthier than whole fruits and vegetables.

“Thanks to the California Table Grape Commission (CTGC), grape health research is promoted throughout the season in television commercials, digital and social media ads, on e-commerce platforms, as well as in radio spots and print magazines, including Oprah, Real Simple, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Shape, People, and more. This all does a great job of raising awareness and getting grapes on the shopping list,” Jon said.

Big, beautiful displays on the retail floor are also essential to capturing shopper dollars. Jasmine Vineyards encourages grocers to utilize its “Happy California Grape Season!” banners and emphasize seasonal, California-grown, whole, and natural fruit, which already checks many of the boxes on a consumer’s list.

“Grapes are one of the most appealing, convenient, and versatile options in the produce aisle,” Jon asserted. “As such, they tend to do well year-round, and they are easily promotable from the Fourth of July and summertime picnics to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, and even to the everyday cheese, wine, and bread pairings, ultimately driving sales throughout the store.”

Many people are surprised to learn that grapes are a type of berry, and this opens up even more creative possibilities for strategic merchandising. Sliced or quartered grapes of all varieties can be paired with cereal, granola and yogurt, and other traditionally berry-friendly dishes.

“Packaging preferences are very culture-driven.”

When shoppers have choices, both in terms of flavor and function, they are willing to ask for their favorite varieties by name. Jasmine Vineyards, as well as its retail partners, receive numerous emails and messages from consumers praising these grapes’ unique flavor, impressive size, and outstanding crunch. However, Jon relayed to me that the number-one reason consumers come back for Jasmine Vineyards grapes is the brand’s consistency.

“We are always assessing our programs and consulting with breeders to optimize operations, as well as learn about new varieties to be considered among our offerings,” Jon explained. “As a conventional grower that uses progressive California farming practices, we share helpful information on the safety and nutrition parity among conventionally and organically grown grapes. While we pay attention to trends, getting the facts and sharing them is a trait that’s been passed down in our four-generation ranch.”

Jasmine Vineyards touts a 74-year history as a conventional table grape grower using progressive farming practices. With an emphasis on minimal environmental impact, the company utilizes drip-irrigation to maximize efficiency in water consumption; reduces pesticide use with natural enemies; invests in state-of-the-art cold storage technology; and uses recyclable materials, including its grape bags, clamshells, and punnett containers, as well as its shipping and packing supplies.

“Clamshells are probably our most unique offering in the market and are available in both 1 and 2 lb sized bags,” Jon continued. “Packaging preferences are very culture-driven. In Australia and New Zealand, retailers tend to use more sealed punnets and pouches, while in the U.S. and Asia, retailers lean more heavily on the standard field bag. Our diverse network allows us to offer more versatile pack options like the clamshell, which might not be seen often in the U.S. but is used to serve other markets. Retailers know their buyers’ needs and wants best. That’s why we offer a full line of packaging options, including private label.”

“Retailers know their buyers’ needs and wants best. That’s why we offer a full line of packaging options, including private label.”

Its equitable efforts do not end there, though, as Jasmine Vineyards also invests heavily in employee development and fair labor practices.

“In the last several years, we’ve worked closely with the California Farmworker Foundation (CFF),” Jon stated. “Through CFF, we support services that enhance the lives of farmworkers, including the Education on the Vineyard program; the Less Salt, More Health campaign; COVID-19 and flu shot clinics; the Register to Vote campaign; the Pharmacy at the Vineyards program; food distribution; and more.”

All of these efforts made by Jasmine Vineyards have been integral in the rise of table grape demand. Everyone from recipe bloggers, celebrated chefs, dietitians, and even everyday consumers have been captivated by the diversity of table grapes.

As you read these words and ponder how the grower’s category stand-outs might play into your own produce department strategy, Jasmine Vineyards is also pointing the trade directly toward its operations’ day-to-day updates with Fresh Alerts. This platform allows retailers to receive images, videos, and commentary on just-picked varieties from the Jasmine Vineyards ranch.

Who knows? Your next flavor treasure trove may be lying in wait within these pages.