Thanks to year-round availability made possible by imports, table grapes no longer are a seasonal item.
Nonetheless, retailers say they sell more of the fruit during the summer, when California production is at its peak.
At the more than 300 Emeryville, Calif.-based Grocery Outlet stores, grapes are among the top 10 bestsellers in the produce department annually, said Daniel Bell, senior produce and floral buyer.
During the summer, they move up “a couple of spots,” he said.
Grapes rank among the top five produce items at the 20 Portland, Ore.-based New Seasons Market locations, said Jeff Fairchild, produce director.
But he, too, reported that summer sales go up — especially during holiday periods.
“Grapes sell well anytime there’s a picnic opportunity,” he said.
Grocery Outlet stocks red, green and black grapes and an occasional combo pack, Bell said.
Green is the most popular variety, but he said the season for red grapes is longer, so the stores sell more of the red varieties overall.
At New Seasons, Fairchild said sales of green grapes are starting to overtake the reds.
“Things are changing rapidly,” he said.
“I had some weeks last year where green was my No. 1-selling grape,” Fairchild said.
“I’ve never seen that happen before.”
Grocery Outlet features grapes on ad at least once a month and offers digital table grape promotions as often as three or four times a month, Bell said.
The stores sell fixed-weight, 2-pound bags for $1.99-2.99 on ad. The regular price is $3.99-4.99.
Bell said that when grapes are on ad, more shoppers buy one of each color.
He encourages customers to pop them into their freezers.
“They’re really good frozen,” he said.
During summer, Grocery Outlet usually has multiple displays — one near the store entrance and another in the produce department.
When they’re on ad, there may be a display by the check stands as well.
The chain sold grapes in clamshell containers for years, Bell said.
“This year we’re actually moving into a fixed-weight 2-pound bag.”
But he said organic grapes will continue to be sold in clamshells to ensure a proper ring.
New Seasons offers organic grapes exclusively, Fairchild said, and he prefers “the old, classic plain pack” — not bags or clamshells.
Fairchild said he’s excited about all the “cool new” grape varieties that have come on the scene in recent years.
“I think they’re actually energizing the category,” he said.
“We’re getting a more consistent, higher-brix, crunchier berry, and we’re having less shatter at the retail end,” Fairchild said.
“Our grape sales have been reinvigorated.”
The older varieties, like flames and thompsons, “are all solid grapes,” he said, but as new varieties come out, “People are coming back and rebuying in a stronger way than in the past.”
He cited Cotton Candy, Sweet Celebration and various “muscat-type” grapes as examples.
Consumers often “have no clue” about the specific variety they are buying, he said.
“They go home, they have a good experience, so they come back and buy it again,” he said. “They get hooked.”
Bell said Grocery Outlet customers aren’t familiar with specific grape varieties either.
“People just see the color and the size of the fruit,” he said.
They’ll pick it up, “As long as it’s a big grape that looks great.”
Fairchild said he’s open to trying new varieties, “But it’s got to be something that is going to give me some consistency.”
New Seasons’ grape displays typically are about 8 feet long and feature red, green and black grapes and one or two specialty varieties.
During most of the summer, stores have a secondary display, often dedicated to specialty grapes.
They’re on ad about once every three weeks.