The Mexican grape program of Divine Flavor LLC in Nogales, AZ, has “grown quite a bit the last couple of years, with new acreage and new varieties,” according to Carlos Bon, a salesman for the company and category manager for table grapes, stone fruit and melons.
“We are really looking forward to this season, because it is finally the season where we have commercial volume of new varieties that are better when it comes to shelf life, better when it comes to quality, and easier to color. We are pretty excited, because it is like the start of a new era for us,” he said April 1.
The greatest volume increase for the company this year has been in the Early Divine variety, a green seedless grape that is “our replacement for the Perlette,” he said. “This is a variety that is almost as early as a Perlette but with a much better flavor and better shelf life because it has low acidity.”
“Early Divine” is Divine Flavor’s name for a proprietary grape variety belonging to the Israeli government and developed by the Israeli department of agriculture, he said. “We have the master license for it in Mexico” but also sub-license the variety to another grower.
In addition, “we are working on some other varieties that I am not allowed to talk about right now,” Mr. Bon said.
Those varieties, which are still in the experimental phase, are from U.S. and Spanish breeding projects.
“We do have Sweet Celebration in the ground, a variety that belongs to Fruit Genetics in California,” as well as Sweet Jubilee, a black seeded grape that is “very interesting for the Asian market,” he said.
In addition to the new varieties, “we’ve got Flames, we’ve got Superiors, we’ve got black seedless varieties — Summer Royal, Unknown and Autumn Royal. We’ve got Perlettes. We’ve got Red Globes,” he said.
Overall, the company’s grape program out of Mexico has “practically doubled in size the last three years,” he said.
Virtually all of the grapes for the U.S. market are being grown on company acreage, Mr. Bon said. “We work a little bit with outside growers for what we call the overseas program, which is Asia, Europe, South America, the Caribbean, etc. But for the United States and Canada, it is practically only our production, grown in Hermosillo and Caborca.” In the Hermosillo area, “we have two ranches in Pesqueira and two ranches in La Costa,” he said. The company also has one ranch in Caborca.
Divine Flavor’s conventionally grown grapes are packed under the “Divine Flavor” and “Alta” labels. The company also has organically grown grapes that are packed under the “Heaven’s Best” label, he said. The organic program is growing “little by little” but “is not a huge program for us. It is still a niche.”
New on sales at Divine Flavor this year is Clarisa Batiz, daughter of company vice president Pedro Batiz. Ms. Batiz heads the company’s organic program, which has recently been set up as a separate department, Mr. Bon said.
Continuing on sales are “Dennis Hay, Luis Batiz, Christian Reyna, Pedro and myself,” he said.
Several members of the sales team are based in San Diego. However, during the Hermosillo grape season, “we are all in Nogales,” he said.
At Divine Flavor, “we take our name very seriously,” Mr. Bon said. “We really are focused on flavor, and we are trying to bring that taste, that flavor of the old-time grapes, back to the consumer. That is what we are working on.”