Awe Sum Kicks Off Organic Grape Deal from Peru
David Posner, founder of Santa Cruz, CA-based Awe Sum Organics has two distinct organic table grape farms in Peru that provide Awe Sum with organic grapes in the U.S. market from mid-December well into March.
“We don’t compete with California as our shipments start as California is finishing up,” he said on Dec. 11, noting that his first arrivals landed a couple of days earlier at the Port of Philadelphia. “There are some (organic grapes) from South Africa, but they mostly go to Europe. I’ve heard there might be limited volume of South African organic grapes in the States this season.”
He added that Awe Sum’s Peruvian organic grape program is the largest in that country and the most advanced. He allows that there will be a limited amount of Peruvian organic grapes sent to the United States that are not imported by Awe Sum, but they will not be voluminous. “It is not easy to grow organic table grapes in Peru,” he said. “We started this project to grow grapes organically in Peru over 15 years ago,” he said. “We saw that there was a (winter) window (for organic grapes) and created an organic method to grow them successfully.”
He said the main challenges of growing table grapes organically in Peru is the tropical climate in the grape growing regions combined with the fact that there is no natural dormancy. Table grapes need to go into dormancy, come out of dormancy and then achieve a solid and even bud break. Conventional grape growers have growth regulators that they can use to push the vines into bud break after dormancy. Organic growers cannot use those tools. “We had to develop a method for improving bud break,” Posner said, noting that he holds United States and Canadian patents protecting his methods.
“We started trials in 2005 and this is the eight year that we have production,” he said.
That production has increased every year and this year Awe Sum has the makings of its best crop ever of organic table grapes from Peru. Over the years, he and his growers have experimented with several different varieties and will be shipping one main red and green seedless variety this season. These two varieties are from the California-based IFG breeding program and are the stars of Awe Sum’s winter lineup. Sweet Globe is a very popular green seedless variety while Sweet Celebration is the Awe Sum’s top red seedless variety. They will also offer seeded Red Globes, which have been in production the longest, as well as another green seedless variety, both of which will be Awe Sum’s organic offerings for value oriented shoppers.
Posner called both Sweet Globes and Sweet Celebration “amazing varieties” that are both sweet and crunchy with excellent size berries, and fantastic color. Also, he called the seeded Red Globes and their secondary green seedless variety both great value-oriented options. While the seeded nature of the Red Globe variety is not ideal for some consumers, Posner said it is a delicious variety and each berry is very large with only three seeds, so consumers tend to adapt fairly easily…and it is a value option.
Awe Sum’s green seedless Sweet Globes will be available from mid-December through mid-March with a value-oriented green seedless variety available for a shorter period from late December to late-January. Their red seedless Sweet Celebration will also be available for the length of the season. Awe Sum is able to extend the season for the full three months because it has organic grape farms in both the northern and southern growing regions of Peru. Posner added that the company’s Peruvian growers are continuing to improve their organic cultural practices and his long-term goal is to extend the Peruvian deal through April so that there will be organic table grapes on the U.S. market for 12 months of the year. Currently, once the Peruvian deal ends there will be a gap until Mexico and California’s Coachella Valley deals get started, which usually occurs in early May.
All of Awe Sum’s Peruvian organic grapes will be available in two retail-ready packs: a random weight pouch bag that contains approximately 1.5 pounds of product and a fixed-weight, one-pound clamshell. Posner advised customers and potential customers to plan ahead because demand does exceed supply on organic table grapes during the winter. But he said if a retailer discusses their needs early enough with the Awe Sum sales crew, there should be some options for this winter period.
He added that their grapes are Fair Trade Certified and packed indoors in state-of-the-art facilities with food safety and worker safety top of mind.
Posner remarked that Awe Sum’s organic blueberry deal from Southern Chile will start in late December and run through February. He said the company only offers the best varieties from Chile’s districts with the optimum climate for organic blueberries. He said this offers a perfect mixed load companion with their Peruvian grapes. The company loads both of these fruits from both its California and Philadelphia facilities.