Cotton Candy, Gumdrops, Moon Drops, Tear Drops. These are all names of grapes grown by Grapery and headed to a store near you soon. In today's episode, I talked to the CEO of Grapery, Jim Beagle, about what the 2023 crop looks like. Stay tuned to the end for my best tips for buying grapes in the store.
On our podcast, Eat Shop Waste Not, I conducted an interview with Jim Beagle, the CEO of Grapery.
You can listen to this podcast episode below or listen on any of these podcast players - Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts. If you would prefer to read the text, you will find a transcript below.
Here is what you will hear/read about in this episode:
- How Grapery is Working with Other Farmers Across the World
- Why This is One of Their Best Crops Ever
- How Long to Expect Cotton Candy Grapes to Be in Stores
- Learn about Green Tear Drops grape
Here is the transcript from our interview with Jim from Grapery.
Eric: All right, everybody today, I'm excited once again to have my favorite grape person on here. Um, he's, he's also a great person, uh, but no more bad puns. Um, Jim Beagle from Grapery. Welcome to the podcast.
Jim: Thanks, Eric. It's great to join you again.
Eric: All right. So we're, uh, again, I'd love to come on and I'll have him share about what's going to go on for Grapery season.
They have been made famous by their Cotton Candy grapes and their Gum Drops and, and, Moon drops and all these fun, flavorful and differently shaped grapes. Um, so I have been a big fan of theirs since I first heard about them quite a while ago now. Um, so I have to keep in touch with Jim every year and kind of see how the crop looks.
🚜 Working With Other Growers
Before we get into this year's details, um, something new people might be noticing or, and I heard a few people that might be kind of uh, wondering what the heck's going on here is we've already seen some grapefruit branded grapes in stores this season coming from Mexico. So you want to, um, enlighten us about what's going on with your guys plans here now with working with some other vineyards and other countries.
Jim: Absolutely, Eric. I'm glad you were able to find them. There's not that many in the stores yet. So we're starting slowly and cautiously to work with growers and other parts of the world. Uh, to deliver the great Grapery flavor and great taste that you're used to during our California season.
So, our season is short. It runs from, you know, roughly August until the end of October and then our grapes are gone for nine months and we get a lot of people asking us, you know, can't we get your grapes more year round and we can't do it just in California with the climate we have in the seasons we have, but different places in the world with different weather patterns and especially in the southern hemisphere can produce grapes at different times of the year.
So. You know, as table grape growers, it's kind of a relatively small global community. We sort of all know each other. And so, so we've been down to some of the countries that supply the United States with grapes at a time of year when California doesn't have them ripe. And we've gotten to know some of those farmers, and some of them are really good farmers.
And so, we've spent some time with them, and shared with them some of the things that make Grapery special, in terms of some of the unique things that we do in the vineyard to achieve that really consistently high flavor. And there's a whole lot to go into that, it's a whole system and a whole program.
And, and some of them have been excited to collaborate with us to try to see, can they deliver the same Grapery standard and quality and great taste that you're used to at different times of the year. And so, um, we're starting slowly and cautiously so that we don't, you know, our goal is to not upset anybody or disappoint anybody.
And we worked with some growers in Mexico this spring and they brought in some, uh, some Cotton Candy and some Gumdrops, uh, and even a little bit of some Limited Red grapes. Under our Grapery label and got them into grocery stores and in front of a few people and it went really well.
And so, you know, we're looking to expand that you're gonna see grapes starting now from California. Then hopefully we'll transition into Brazil if we can, you know, if that grower can get the grapes to the right standard We're working closely with a great grower there and then we'll transition into Peru and then Chile And then back to Mexico, uh, we may even bring a few grapes in from South Africa.
There's some really great farmers there, that should, should get some grapes to the East coast of the US to some of our customers that are used to getting them. Anyways, the idea is, you know, we're going to piece this whole thing together and see if we can make it work without sacrificing quality or you know, any of the other standards about, you know, environmental stewardship or taking care of the people that work on the farms and all those things are important and we're being really thorough.
And building some really meaningful relationships with the right family, family farms in some really interesting places. So, you know, if you see them and you look on the bag and it doesn't say produce of USA, and it says it's from another country, you know, we'd love just like the feedback we get from our grapes from here in California. We'd love to get feedback from people who see them and try them and let us know, are we meeting that standard or not. And that's how we're going to know, um, you know, if this is at the end of the day, if this is working as well as it needs to, uh, but that's the plan.
We're excited about it. And we think it's got a lot of, a lot of opportunity and a lot of promise for, for everybody to enjoy grapes more for longer season.
Eric: Yeah. That's what, you know, people are, you know, they miss them for that here. And, and you see, there's obviously, you know, there's been a flood of, of different growers and things appearing on the market now, you know, it's way more common now to you know, the cotton candy grapes here and find gumdrops and the different variations. But getting the quality, like, you know, some of those have just been outright bad, you know, so it's kind of good that you guys are kind of getting in on that because it's, it's going to be, you know, with or without you, it's happening already.
Um, so I think it's great that you guys are going to, you know, want to look over that here and kind of, you know, go alongside that. Um, so how does it work? Do you, so with the actual grapes that get imported, do they actually directly come to you guys still, or do they go somewhere? Got a more somewhere else.
Like, how does that work?
Jim: Well, so as far as logistics, they don't come to central California where our grapes are grown. That's sort of a way out of the way when at a lot of cost for everybody. So it depends on where they're being imported from the grapes from Mexico come by truck. They cross in Arizona and in Texas is where they cross the border through, uh, Nogales and McAllen.
Uh, depending on, you know, which side of the US they're headed to, uh, we coordinate all the trucking and all the logistics to get those delivered to grocery stores, just like we deliver as if we were shipped from here in Shafter, California. Um, from the other countries, it travels by ocean, and so they come into ports, uh, whether that's, you know, the main East Coast port would be Philadelphia, and the main West Coast port would be Long Beach, San Pedro, down in the Los Angeles area.
And then they get, you know, offloaded and, and trucked to, you know, grocery stores. From there, it's sort of like the same as if it was being trucked from here. Uh, in terms of the process, getting them to the distribution centers and out to the stores.
Eric: So cool to know the whole process behind it, if people are interested in, you know, seeing how the inner workings of things, especially, you know, you're talking about going overseas and getting things in here.
Jim: We are actually have a lot of experience with that, but from the other side of the coin, because for years we've shipped a lot of grapes, uh, export, especially to the Pacific Rim countries in Asia.
So we're used to kind of that whole port logistics, trucking. Situation, how to take care of the fruit, how to keep it cold and fresh and ship it over, you know, long boat rides to faraway places. So it's not that part of it's not really new.
Eric: So yeah, that's the update on what's going on on with that. If you guys ever have listeners have any questions about what they're doing here, you can always reach out to me or, on the bag of grapes, there's contact information always on there. They love hearing from you. So I'll take advantage of that.
🗓️ What's This Year's Crop Look Like?
Eric: Let's switch gears now and let's talk about the 2023 grapery season from California.
What, what do things look like this year? Uh, I think it's pretty well publicized that California actually got rain this winter. Um, so that that's been good. So yeah, just share us with us. What are, I think we've talked already over email, so I think people should be excited this year. So I want them to hear directly from you.
Jim: Eric, I can't tell you how excited I am about this crop. I haven't seen one look this nice at this stage in a long time. You know, the, you'd mentioned the rain and that's really where it starts. I mean, we had record rainfall in California and especially set even bigger records regionally within the area of California that we're in.
We did have to. You know, manage a little bit of flooding. We had some damage and we had some messes to clean up and that was, you know, tricky back in February and March and a little bit into April, but, you know, I'll take that any day to get the kind of water we got and, and get the water, you know, to all the vines we got across all our vineyards.
You know, I see it just driving around this area where there's so much great fresh produce that's grown in the area where we grow these grapes from citrus to carrots to potatoes to almonds, pistachios, grapes. I mean, you name it. There's so many crops around here. All the plants look so healthy this year because the soil is just so full of water.
I mean, it doesn't matter what even landscaping, right? It doesn't matter what kind of plant is. It looks great this year. And so the vines are strong. The vines are healthy. They're putting out a nice crop of fruit that is, you know, the fruit sizing well, which, you know, we don't always go for the biggest size we can, but it's just a sign that the vine is happy and healthy and strong, and the fruit's strong, and the flavors are coming in nicely, it's right at the beginning of our season right now, um, but it just, it couldn't be shaping up any better, um, the growing season has been relatively smooth, one thing by having a cool, uh, Spring that sort of followed all the rains.
We didn't get heat until just very recently here in California, was that the vines didn't have the normal amount of stress they would have from volatile temperatures in May and June. I think it was one of the coolest June's on record that we've had. And so without that stress, the vines just grew and grew and grew and the fruit developed and it's just the quality looks amazing.
So now that we've gotten into this period of heat in the final ripening stages, the vines are actually ready for it because they're strong, not stressed and they actually sailed right through the recent heat that we've had in California with no issues. I mean, I've been amazed at the way the fruits continue to develop.
We see no heat damage. No stress on the vines. It's just, it's really exciting to see what this, what this crop looks like this year.
🍬 Cotton Candy Grapes
Yeah. So the cotton candy looked great. You know, that's our most, uh, popular, prominent one. And, um, We're going to start those here, uh, probably in about a week in a small way and really get ramped up through August and September and have those well, into October. I can already smell the Cotton Candy when I walk into it.
Learn more about how Cotton Candy grapes were made.
🌙 Moon Drops
It's, it's, it's great. Um, the moon drops look great this year. You know, again, just what I was echoing what I was talking about earlier on the quality and the development that. The it's, they're big, they're healthy, they look great. And Moondrops are so striking visually on top of tasting great. I just think that's going to be even more appealing than ever this year.
Get more information on Moon Drops grapes.
💗 Gum Drops
Um, gumdrops, we've got more than ever this year. So you're going to see the gumdrops start hitting the stores here in the next week or so. And I'm really excited about the way those taste this year.
Learn about all the different types of Gum Drops grapes that Grapery grows.
💧 Tear Drops
Teardrops is one that we, we've been trying to reintroduce for the last two years. We've got these green teardrops and two years ago, there was right as they were getting ripe.
There was one rain cloud that came across the valley and it only hit about three vineyards out of all of California. But that was one of them and it wiped out the crop and that was the first crop. And then the next year, last year was supposed to be the second crop and we had a once in a generation freeze.
And that variety is particularly susceptible and it wiped out that whole crop. So now we're on her third time trying to bring these in. And I'll tell you, they look great this year. And we're going to start harvest, I don't know, probably, if I had to guess, in about ten days or two weeks a little bit. But really excited to get those in front of people and really hear your feedback on what you think of the way those taste like.
Get the lowdown on the Tear Drops grapes from Grapery
🔴 Limited Grapes
You know, plenty of our regular limited, uh, reds and greens that are, you know, not unique shapes or flavors, just grapes that taste great. And it tastes great every time. Uh, best, best tasting grapes you can buy. So, those all look good. And we're just excited to get started and get this fruit back in front of people.
And our retailers are excited to put big displays of Grapery Grapes in the front of their stores. Make sure that gets your attention. And so, you know, when they're back in the stores, when they come in and, uh, have a good run of great tasting grapes from about now till, uh, till close to Thanksgiving. Yeah.
Eric: Super excited to hear about that. Especially the, um, the teardrops. Um, I, I was lucky to have found one bag of the green teardrops, um, back, back in 2020. There was one store and I was able to get a hold of them. And I had them once, I've had them twice ever. And so they are extremely good. Um, you get that kind of, you know, like, They're a little bit smaller.
Those from the Moondrops are kind of smaller in size than those. But still have that kind of a long gated shape. And they have this really kind of unique flavor. I don't, I would, I've always kind of described them as kind of melony like. Like, kind of like a melon. Kind of undertone, I think to them like, um, I think, I think they're fabulous.
So if you see those, make sure to, to snag those up for sure. They are, um, they are really, really good grapes.
Jim: Yeah. It's going to be, you've been lucky to find them, but everybody who's had them, you know, the few that have been out there, we've had great feedback. So we're just really excited to see what people think of them.
And when we get them out into more, more people's hands.
Learn about the Limited Grapes from Grapery. See how many kinds there are.
🧙♀️ Witch Finger/Tear Drops
Eric: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. It's a, you know, snag those ones up for sure. Now, you know, we don't talk about in years past here, but they used to have your, your Witch Finger/Teardrop that were more red in color. And you guys really tried your hardest with those. And I know that, that, um, they just didn't work out on the scales that you had hoped, hoped for them. So people are maybe wondering about that.
Jim: Yeah, those, those are right. You're right. Those, um, they're, they're, we tried and tried and tried, but there's just so many problems with that grape in the field.
I won't go into all the details, but it just basically had no shelf life. So if you could get it the day after we picked it, it was great. But if it was three days after we picked it, it would start falling apart and that, you know, we just disappointed too many people by not getting into their hands fast enough.
So we decided to go ahead and pull the plug on those when we saw this green one coming along, that's, you know, same shape and same great taste, uh, just a different color. And we've been transitioning into that one. We've just, like I mentioned, had a few hiccups and getting it, getting it out in the market.
It's taken a couple of years longer than we thought, but we're, we're really excited about it this year.
👶 New Grapes?
Eric: I am too. I can't, I can't wait to, um, to find those. And, uh, one last thing before we let you go today here, um, let's talk about this. You guys partner with international fruit genetics. So, uh, maybe share a little bit about them, uh, before we, uh, wrap things up.
Jim: Yeah, so there's some new news there. Um, we've been associated with International Fruit Genetics (IFG) for a long time, and they've got, they do a lot of, you know, really unique things and a lot of innovation around table grape varieties. And they're going through a sale process with an investor and kind of changing their whole thing around. And so we still have a relationship with them. That's great.
But we think that, you know, for the long term and the future, it's made sense for us to go ahead and start our own breeding program that's really, much more narrowly focused on great taste as the number one priority. Because IFG had a lot of different priorities, and rightly so.
We think this is gonna, you know, over the coming years, um, take this flavor experience that we're able to provide to the next level and just keep bringing better and better grapes to people. So, it's really early on, it takes a long time, it's very slow. But it is a new venture that we're really excited about, or the next evolution in that.
Eric: Yeah, thanks for, thanks for sharing that here. Um, that, yeah, that's exciting. You guys are doing that. I'm glad to hear you guys are looking into doing some of your own things, um, with that too. That was something I'm not sure if the people understood about, like, how you guys are working with them and that. Because some people sometimes say like, Wait, how come there's other cotton candy grapes made by somebody else? Isn't that Grapery's thing? Well, you know, you guys have been working with someone who's developed things here. So, yeah, that's why you will see them. Another thing, you still have the exclusive license to grow cotton candy in California. Is that correct?
Jim: Yes, that's correct.
Eric: So you guys know if it's cotton candy from California, it's Grapery. That's going to change. That's right.
Ok Jim, thank you again for coming on the podcast. I always love chatting with you each year and we look forward to another grape season of grape tasting grapes.
Jim: Absolutely. Thanks for having me, Eric. It's always great to check in with you. Appreciate talking to you today.
🛒 Before You Checkout
What you need to know before you checkout at the grocery store or market:
When I bring home a bag of grapes from the store, I like to carefully remove the bunches. Then take out all the loose grapes that are at the bottom of the bag.
These are the ones I will eat first, as they're the ones most likely to go bad first. I put the bunches back into the bag and into the fridge. Also, never wash your grapes until you're ready to eat them. Wet grapes inside the fridge are a recipe for spoilage.
Have you found Cotton Candy grapes from Grapery? Leave a comment below sharing where you found them? Still looking for them? Ask in the comments where to look in your area by leaving your city and state.
🎧 More Episodes
I really hope you enjoyed this episode. While you are here, check out these other episodes that I believe you will love as well.