International Fruit Genetics (IFG), headquartered in Bakersfield, CA, has added six new varieties of table grapes to its line in 2020.
“Consumers will be attracted by such unique names and once they taste these new grapes, they will come back for more just as they have with our previous grape varietals. Consumers are searching for nutritious, high-quality grapes with excellent taste, and IFG’s breeding program is designed to deliver what consumers want,” said Andy Higgins, chief executive officer of IFG.
The six grapes include Gracenote, Kokomo, Julep, Bebop, Quip and Rugby.
“We’re trying to come up with names that do give the marketer some runway to be creative and add a flair to this, to add packaging and design inspiration,” Higgins said. “They reflect our efforts to revolutionize the industry. We aim to inspire the consumer and give our growers, marketers, and retailers a platform to maximize the potential that each variety has to offer.”
The company now has more than 40 grape varieties globally.
“We know not all of them are going to be home runs or even getting on base, but our job is to try and continually improve what’s out there in terms of the choices that growers, marketers and retailers will have,” Higgins said. “When we take a look at breeding efforts, we segment into two very broad categories in grapes—the sweet neutrals where we focus on the complexity of the eating profile; and those looking for a different kind of experience.”
For instance, there’s a variety in the pipeline that Higgins noted is more crisper than an apple.
“We’re very excited about that and we’ll be introducing that later in 2020,” he said. “We like to bring forward things that will expand interest in the category. Varieties that will expand the presence of grapes and create interest in grapes by the consumer.”
There’s a lot going on for the innovative fruit breeder. On the corporate side, it has closed escrow on 160 acres and is in the throes of developing a new R&D breeding technology center in McFarland, CA.
“It will effectively double the size of our R&D footprint,” Higgins said. “That’s scheduled to come on line in 2021, so we’re very excited about that.
The company is also continuing its licensing efforts globally and have just about completed its 3-part support team in-country, with staff on the ground for technical, commercial and quality support.
“In this era of COVID, it’s been invaluable for us and our licensees in ensuring that we have quality fruit coming to the markets globally,” Higgins said.
COVID has also impacted IFG’s inability to travel, which has effected some operations.
“A lot of the work that we do focuses on successful varieties and when we come up with a variety that scores well for the consumer, we need to figure out if it checks all the boxes for the supply chain, importers and growers ultimately,” Higgins said. “In the countries that we do have the staff and they do have access, it’s great. But there are still markets that are very restrictive right now.”