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Conventional/organic mirror model gives Anthony Vineyards marketplace edge

The key to success for Anthony Vineyards has been consistency. Family patriarch Anthony Bianco, known for his business acumen at a young age, eventually garnered a national reputation following a proclamation by New Yorker Magazine naming him “Juice Grape King of the United States.”

Following his death in 1967, his four sons took their father’s vision to the next level with the founding of Anthony Vineyards.

Today, the third generation is becoming involved with business operations. Anthony Vineyards is headquartered in Bakersfield, CA. The company’s variety manifest is extensive.

Salesman Rob Spinelli said Anthony Vineyards has adopted a specific business model to promote its grapes. “Our organic production mirrors conventional production,” he told The Produce News. “This ensures a consistency of supply. There is good consistency in organic production that wasn’t there five or six years ago.” This practice has enabled Anthony Vineyards to extend its marketing season by an additional six weeks, an added bonus to retailers.

Grapes are available from May through November. Conventional production began in California’s Coachella Valley on April 30, and the organic harvest began shortly thereafter. “We have outstanding quality with good size and flavor,” Spinelli said. Water has not been an issue in Coachella.

“In the San Joaquin Valley, it’s a cause for concern,” he went on to say. The company does have one or two ranches in the San Joaquin Valley that are being affected by water restrictions. “We will use water allocated to these ranches and divert it to other locations,” Spinelli stated.

The company’s largest grape volume is harvested in the fall. “This helps increase availability for customers,” he said. Newer grape varieties have been planted, and the maturing vineyards are yielding increased volume. “We’re getting good product in there,” he noted. Spinelli said he expects the company’s overall grape volume to increase by 10 percent when compared to last year.

Organic production accounts for 25 percent of the company’s overall volume, and Anthony Vineyard’s organic production has doubled in the last six years. “We’re ahead of the curve. We have a successful program right now,” he added. “Demand for organic grapes is a lot higher than what is being produced today. The true organic buyer is searching for product.” Crossover buyers are also experimenting with organic purchases.

Looking down the road, Spinelli said 1.4 million boxes of organic grapes are currently being marketed under the “Anthony’s Organic” label to mom and pop stores, regional and national chains as well as club stores. Within the coming three years, he expects that volume to grow to 1.8 million boxes.

“A lot of chains are growing,” he commented, adding that expectations that chains would be hard-hit by the economic recession did not prove true.

Grape exports are growing, and Spinelli said 1 to 2 percent of the company’s overall grape volume moves offshore to destinations such as Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan and China. Grapes are also moving to the United Arab Emirates.