King Fresh's Keith and Paige Wilson Discuss Ongoing Grape Season and Upcoming Pomegranates
- by Laura Hillen
KINGSBURG, CA - As August nears to its close, King Fresh is preparing for a holiday push for grapes, and moving quickly into pomegranates, with good demand across the board. So how is the company planning to meet rising demand, and where will the market sit for these segments?
Keith Wilson, President of King Fresh Produce LLC, recently joined me along with his daughter Paige Wilson, who is interning this summer in the company’s marketing department. The two divulged where King Fresh is currently sitting in its segment seasons, and where the company is heading next.
“We are currently finishing up with Flames, and we’ve finished with our Ivory green seedless variety. Our season this year will go all the way through December,” Keith tells me of the company’s current California grape selections.
“Quality has been great on all varieties, and the next red and green seedless varieties which are packing right now, Summer Royal, Magenta, V Red, and Crimson. These varieties all look to be well sized with exceptional flavor,” Keith says, adding that the industry experienced smaller berry size to its Flame crop, which was most likely due to spring weather.
King Fresh has seen heightened demand on extra-large grapes, and Keith expects returns for extra-large fruit to be better than last year. Retailers should promote grapes of all colors for the upcoming holidays.
“The crop looks good from here forward, so retailers should promote all the way through Thanksgiving, if not Christmas also,” Paige says.
From its California grape program, King Fresh is launching straight into its California pomegranate program. The company just started packing its Granada variety last week.
“We move into the Smith variety in one week, then Foothills, and then into the Wonderful variety in late September,” Keith outlines.
King Fresh is experiencing increased volume to its pomegranate program as the company took on more growers this year.
“The quality looks great this year, and we’re optimistic about the market,” Keith says. “I expect the prices to be better than last year because pomegranate acreage is is diminishing.”
Keith expects prices to be in the $30 range for larger size two-layer boxes which he says should be promotable by the end of August all the way through November. The company projects that 40 percent of its crop will be exported to match the growing demand in Asian markets.
“Retailers need to get on board early this year to increase pomegranate sales, starting with the varieties that will come in prior to Wonderfuls,” Paige divulges.
So what’s next in the King Fresh pipeline?
“We’re looking at importing more grapes from Peru to expand our current programs,” Keith says. “And we’re very excited about our Chilean grapes, which are grown and packed year-round.”
King Fresh is also expecting to pack its California winter citrus in November, starting with Navel oranges, and expects the program to close out sometime in April.
King Fresh Produce, the marketing arm of Wilson Farms, is now in its third generation of Wilsons spearheading the company. Wilson Farms was founded by Keith’s father, Woodrow Wilson, following in the farming tradition of Keith’s grandfather. Keith himself heads King Fresh, where his children are now beginning to break into the family business.
As the King Fresh family continues to grow, with the Wilson family tie at its base, AndNowUKnow will have our ear to the ground for company expansions to its growing programs and offered segments.