Classic Harvest adds industry veteran to help grow grape business

PARAMUS, NJ — Classic Harvest has been in operation since 2014, and in that relatively short time it has made a name for itself as a year-round grower-shipper and importer of high-quality citrus from around the world. Now, the company is looking to use that blueprint to become a bigger player in table grapes.

As part of its strategy, Classic Harvest has added industry veteran Chris DeSana to help further develop its table grape business.

IMG 3087-1Chris DeSana, who recently joined Classic Harvest as senior director of sales for deciduous fruit, with Adam Behar, managing general partner, at the Classic Harvest office in Paramus, NJ. Photo by John Groh.DeSana, who officially joined the Paramus, NJ-based company on Nov. 11 as senior director of sales for deciduous fruit, will work primarily from a newly established office in southern New Jersey, near the ports on the Delaware River where shipments are received.

Prior to joining Classic Harvest, DeSana spent the last two years at Pacific Trellis, and before that he worked for seven years at Seald Sweet. He also held sales positions at Sbrocco International and U.S. Produce Exchange earlier in his career.

“My goal at Classic Harvest is to develop a year-round grape program, but I am also looking to help the company grow over all,” DeSana said. “At Seald Sweet, my main contribution was growing the import grape program to include imports from Peru, Chile and Mexico, and I will be doing the same thing with grapes here at Classic Harvest.”

He said Classic Harvest has imported grape deals in place in Peru and Chile, and it expects to market a combined 1.2 million boxes from those origins. He added that the company plans to add a Mexican deal this coming season, which will complement its domestic supply and help round out the year-round sourcing.

DeSana projects that import grape volumes will increase 35 percent over last year, with additional grapes from Peru and Chile. Although most arrivals will be to Philadelphia, some programs will arrive on the West Coast.

Adam Behar, managing general partner at Classic Harvest, said the company was started six years ago with the concept of being a year-round citrus supplier, and he is proud of having achieved that goal in such a short amount of time. It currently markets citrus from multiple countries of origin, including Argentina, Peru, Chile, Uruguay and the United States. Its domestic citrus is sourced from California, Texas and Florida.

“Now, we are looking to use the same model for table grapes,” Behar said. “As a company, we are blessed to have the right contacts and the right people at the different country of origins, and now we have the right professional in Chris to help execute our vision.”

Behar acknowledged that there are some challenges that lie ahead as it gets more involved in table grapes.

“The challenging part of the business is gauging supply and demand, and developing programs that address that,” said Behar. “Also, the grape market can be demanding in that retailers are asking for more varieties. It used to be green grapes or red grapes, but now retailers are looking for specific flavor and size profiles.”

The first arrivals of the Timpson and Allison varieties are expected in early December, and the market has already demonstrated a lot of interest for these varieties, he said. Also, there is some concern that the California crops may not make it through the entire month of December as originally forecasted, so these early programs can fill a crucial gap.

“I am confident that we can meet these challenges and grow our grape business,” he added. “We have the right man in place in Chris. I have known him for more than 20 years and he has a level of expertise I have respected for a long time.”

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