Concentrate sales have helped San Joaquin growers

Concentrate sales have helped San Joaquin growers – grape juice concentrates; San Joaquin, California

Grape juice concentrate increased in California to approximately 462,000 tons in 1991, accounting for 28% of the San Joaquin Valley crush (Districts 12, 13, 14). An article in California Agriculture Vol. 47, No. 5 relates that concentrate is a growth industry.

The paper, written by Agricultural Economics Prof. Dale Heien and graduate student Ray Venner of U.C., Davis, said the International Trade Centre (ITC) concludes that the fruit juice business will remain a growth industry for a long time.

“Per capita consumption of fruit juices and nectars is still fairly low in most markets.

“Consumption of fruit juices is projected to increase due to greater health consciousness. Innovative packaging by bottlers and retailers, coupled with advertising and aggressive promotion, will also increase consumption. Fruit concentrates are increasingly used in other food and beverage products, including dairy products and health drinks. The ITC estimates that the world market for fruit juices will grow strongly in the future.”

The article recounted that San Joaquin valley grape growers once viewed concentrate as market for surplus grapes, just as dessert/aperitif wines once were used to sop up grapes not used for raisins or table grapes.

Over time, it said, wineries look increasingly to wine varieties grown on the coastal areas of California or on upward elevations in northern California. The paper summarizes:

“Today the grape juice concentrate market is filling the surplus grape market role. . . . grape production for concentrate could become a primary market for San Joaquin Valley growers.”

The paper said that U.S. grape juice concentrate is primarily supplied by several varieties grown in the San Joaquin Valley and by the Concord varieties grown in New York, Washington and other northern states.

Apple juice concentrate accounts for 72% of U.S. fruit concentrate consumption. The price of grape concentrate tends to fluctuate with that of apple. Grape juice, Heien and Venner said, is exported in three forms: frozen and unfrozen concentrate, and juice. It is typically sold as concentrate and processed in the importing nation. The U.S. generally exports higher-value frozen concentrate and juice and imports lower-value unfrozen concentrate. Exports are Concord and a limited amount of Muscat from the San Joaquin Valley. The value of American grape concentrate exports increased rapidly to $43.7 million in 1989 and declined slightly in 1990 and ’91, the authors said.

“By value the U.S. is the world’s largest exporter of grape juice concentrate.” The article said that Japan and Canada will likely remain the primary markets for U.S. grape concentrate, although South Korea is expected to eliminate import restrictions on grape concentrate in 1995-97. Other Asian nations are also expected to increase imports.

The San Joaquin Valley can enhance sales by developing white and red grape varieties specifically for concentrates, replacing currently used winegrapes and Thompson Seedless.

“The ideal white concentrate variety is high yielding with a neutral taste, like Burger and perhaps Tokay”.

Properties of an ideal single strength white juice grape variety are 1) low level of phenolics for minimal color, 2) low pulp level for good yield, 3) machine harvest-ability, 4) ease in pressing, 5) aroma, 6) neutral taste and 7) high yield.

Ideal red juice varieties would share many of the above qualities but have dark red pigment which might be genetically engineered.

Other considerations are lower production costs, standardizing of grape solids into precise uniform grades, promotion of grape concentrate to the cereals and bakery industries, promotion of San Joaquin Valley concentrate abroad, earmarking from the $1 per gallon duty on grape concentrate imports for research and promotion, and active industry organization, such as associations or commissions.

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