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Minimum maturity standards give grape growers the sweet taste of supermarket success

Publication date: 11 February 2022

This project ensures the vast majority of Australian table grapes bought from major retailers are fresh and sweet, satisfying tastebuds and growers alike.

The challenge

To ensure new minimum maturity standards for table grapes are fully adopted across the supply chain from the 20/21 season onwards, improving customer satisfaction and sales.

Meet Glenn

Gleniecy Farm owner Glenn Pearmine has long understood the link between ripe grapes and satisfied repeat customers. “There’s a strong need in the market for quality, sweet fruit,” says Glenn. “If sour, immature fruit comes into the market, customers simply don’t come back to buy more.”

It’s no surprise then that Glenn was eager for his farm to adopt minimum maturity standards for table grapes, and he actively encourages others to do the same.

“Thanks to this program, sweeter fruit goes to the market. There’s a minimum of 16 Brix consistently across the crop before picking commences. When maturity testing information is passed on to the markets and buying chains, like Coles and Woolworths, there’s a much better result for our business. Consumer demand is much higher because the quality is better. Maturity testing allows us to put premium fruit into the market. The profits are up on mature fruit simply because of consumer demand. All growers should be on board. When mass amounts of immature fruit enters the early market, it kills the prices for the season and all growers suffer.”

Information collected via the program is also shared with growers – something which is of great benefit, according to Glenn. “Data received from maturity testing gives growers another tool for vineyard management, for instance, irrigation and fertiliser application.”

The approach

In October 2018 the Australian table grape industry collectively agreed to develop minimum maturity standards (MMS) that are well-aligned with consumer taste expectations, and extensive consultation was carried out with major retailers, suppliers, and individual growers.

The Australian Table Grape Association (ATGA) applied the MMS in October 2019 to coincide with the 2019/20 harvest and it is now the aim of this current program to ensure those standards are adopted across the entire supply chain from the 2020/21 season onwards.

To do that, a pre-season Stakeholder Working Group workshop was formed including the five largest growers, suppliers, and aggregators and the three major retailers in efforts to align key stakeholders and refine activities across the life of the project.

In addition, 2020/21 pre-season grower roadshows were held online to highlight the importance of consistent fruit quality for consumers and improve how retailers manage the grape category.

On-farm MMS monitoring has so far been conducted in the Emerald region. This data was collected with sampling and measurement for eight weeks during the start of the season. Maturity information was provided to growers and retailers to advise them when early fruit is achieving the desired MMS.

Retail monitoring has also been conducted in Melbourne retail stores for white, red, and black grapes.

The impact

A weekly performance summary is being provided to each retailer, via secure online access platform ClickData, detailing individual retailer performance in meeting the MMS and how this compares to the industry average.

Over time, maturity monitoring results have and will continue to improve as the project progresses and growers become increasingly aware of the importance of consistently supplying the market with mature, great-tasting fruit.

As a result, implementing MMS has successfully increased purchase frequency and grower returns.