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King Fresh expects top season with new varieties

With its production dominated by the newer varieties in the Sheehan line, King Fresh is expecting an excellent San Joaquin Valley fresh table grape season with good quality and good volume.

“We’ve bought into the Sheehan varieties package,” said President Keith Wilson, speaking of the Sheehan Genetics varieties bred by the late Timothy P. Sheehan.

He named seven different Sheehan varieties that make up the core of the firm’s production: Krissy, Magenta, Timco and Allison as red grapes; and Ivory, Timpson and Great Green on the green side of the aisle.

King-Fresh-TeamKing Fresh President Keith Wilson (center) with Abel Sori, who oversees quality control, and Export Sales Manager Francisco Ilic.Wilson said the company is actually producing 10 Sheehan varieties and noted that a USDA green seedless variety — Valley Pearl — also shows lots of promise. But the grape grower-shipper hasn’t totally abandoned traditional varieties, including Flame Seedless, the industry’s most popular red seedless grape for the past three decades.

“We grow a good amount of Flames. There are not a lot of other red grape varieties for its time slot,” Wilson said. “The only other variety that can compare is Passion Fire. It’s also very good.”

Passion Fire is also known as Arra 29 and comes from the Giumarra Vineyards breeding program.

The green standby — Thompson Seedless — appears to be coming to the end of its run as a top producer in the fresh table grape category.

“The Thompson Seedless is returning $2 or $3 less per box than Ivory,” he said.

That is forcing most grocers to pull their Thompson Seedless or divert them to the raisin and juice markets, according to Wilson, though he noted that both of those alternative markets do appear to be good options for No. 2 grapes this year.

Wilson said this year’s growing conditions have produced a very big crop of excellent quality.

“The natural shatter was excellent,” he said speaking of Mother Nature’s effort to thin the crop by dropping berries early in the growth cycle. “A good natural shatter creates bunches that aren’t tight. Nice loose bunches means less decay and bigger berries.”

The King Fresh executive predicts that this year’s crop will produce 120 million cartons of fresh table grapes, which would be about a 10 percent increase over 2017.

“We are going to have promotable volume of red, green and black grapes from now through Thanksgiving,” he said Aug. 3. “I see no gaps with any of the colors.”

As far as King Fresh is concerned, he said the company has done very well with many different packs including its “10 by 2 clamshells,” which is 10 two-pound clamshells in a carton. King Fresh offers it as a single variety pack as well as in bi-color and tri-color options. The company also offers 6x3 clamshells, 4x4 clamshells and specialty packs for both retail and foodservice.