Nogales, az — The year-round shipping vision of Divine Flavor LLC has expanded to go beyond Mexico to extend to vegetable and grape production in the United States. The firm is already involved in grape partnerships in Peru and Chile.
“Our board of directors has approved looking for property in the U.S. for high-tech greenhouses and farming in the U.S.,” said Pedro Batiz, vice president of sales for Divine Flavor.
Divine Flavor is based in Nogales, where it owns a modern refrigerated warehouse and office complex. Grupo Alta, which owns Divine Flavor, is a multi-faceted agricultural producer based in Hermosillo, Sonora.
Batiz said Grupo Alta Chief Executive Officer Alan Aguirre Sr. is leading the effort to find ideal locations to expand table grape and greenhouse tomato and vegetable production in the U.S.
As to Mexico’s contribution to Divine Flavor’s 365-day shipping program, the firm has completed phase one of its development project in four states, Batiz said. This involves greenhouses, shadehouses and expansion of its table grape production.
When complete, these protected agriculture projects will have carefully designed communities with homes and services for farm workers, as well postharvest handling and shipping infrastructure.
“It requires a huge commitment to go and make this investment of capital and human resources and time,” Batiz said. “But that’s exactly where we are and we are working internally within the company to transform seven to eight items to be available all year long. This took 10 years of preparation to have the technical staff in different locations.”
On the vegetable side, Divine Flavor is now producing mini-peppers, beefsteak, TOV, medley and grape tomatoes, hothouse colored Bell peppers, slicer and European cucumbers. Batiz said that soon Divine Flavor will be growing and conventional and organic Italian and yellow squash.
As to extending its calendar for grape marketing, Divine Flavor is receiving grapes from Peru and Chile, Batiz said. “So, we are into the transition from being a season to a full-year, year-round grape grower.”
He noted that the produce industry “is changing every day. You need to anticipate the new changes and challenges we face as an industry. That is the reason we decided to farm in the U.S. in the future.
“We are open to partnerships with U.S. or Canadian growers to try to make an alliance that will generate a win-win for both parties.”
As to the expansion in Mexico, the four states with shadehouses or greenhouses are Jalisco, Sinaloa, Sonora and Baja. The Jalisco operation involves 75 acres. In Culiacan, Sinaloa, the farm involves 75 acres and early this year, 30 acres were complete in Ensenada, Baja. Another 50 acres will soon be producing in Ensenada. Divine Flavor has extensive vineyards and shadehouses in a couple of locations northeast of Hermosillo, Sonora, as well as in Guaymas, Sonora.
The responsibilities of Carlos Bon, Divine Flavor’s fruit category manager, include South American production. Bon said Divine Flavor is affiliated with two grape producers in Peru and one in Chile.
In mid-December, the Peruvian growers began arriving to U.S. ports with shipments consigned to Divine Flavor.
“Instead of early Chilean fruit, we do late Peru, and then come in late season in Chile to avoid issues,” Bon said. “The idea is not to import a lot of grapes, but bring what is better for our customers and the consumers.” Thus, Divine Flavor didn’t start receiving Chilean fruit until the fourth week of December. Chilean fruit will arrive until after the U.S. grape marketing order kicks in on April 20. “We will manage that inventory until Mexico begins at the end of April.”
Bon said Divine Flavor’s growers agreed to make certain varieties their core offering, thus the company is focusing future, high-flavor grape plantings on three red, three green one black, and several specialty varieties.
The specialties are Sable, Cotton Candy, Gummy Berry, Concord Divine and Sweet Sapphire.
The red varieties are Sweet Celebration, Krissy and Allison. Chosen green varieties are Autumn Crisp, Sweet Globe and Timpson. Midnight Beauty is the chosen black seedless variety.
Along with choosing the right varieties, Bon said grower patience is a key in producing grapes with good taste. The ideal harvest date can’t be altered to have the best eating profile. “It’s not only having the right varieties, it’s having the right growers with the mindset that grapes have to be harvested when they are fully ripe and have the max flavor.”