5 for 5: Five Questions/Five Answers
Q&A with Tomas Vial Marin of Unifrutti from Chile
Today we speak with Commercial Manager of Unifrutti of Chile, Tomas Vial Marin. Tomas, who is based just outside the city of Santiago, works as the commercial lead between Unifrutti and Divine Flavor. Unifrutti Traders SpA is owned by the De Nadai family and was founded in 1983 by Guido de Nadai, an Italian fruit businessman who trusted Chile and its people. Now, the company accounts for over eleven million boxes per year and has farms across the world in South Africa, Philippines, and Chile. Here’s 5 questions and 5 answers with Tomas from Unifrutti.
Q: Hi Tomas- most of our readers here want to get an idea of how things have been going this season regarding grape imports from Chile. How have things gone so far?
Tomas: It’s been very good so far this season. Last year, certain growing regions of Chile were hit very hard by rains which had huge effects on the volume but so far this season, the weather has been great, and yields have been better than normal. This season we are able to offer steady supplies of spectacular varieties all season long which started back in November.
Q: That’s great. I know last season had its ups and downs. Why is Chile an important region for growing table grapes and how does this benefit US markets?
Tomas: Chile is a reliable supplier of table grapes and we have been for years (about 60 years Tomas explains). Chile has a lot of experience when it comes to growing newer varieties and having the labor experience to do so. We understand the soils we grow in, and most importantly, we can offer a long season filled with excellent grapes varieties which typically goes from November at the earliest and finishing around April and May. What makes Chile very appealing is our ability to comply with strict requirements; phytosanitary, food safety, social responsibility, etc. It’s also very beneficial to have 5 to 6 different ports of where we can send fruit from which helps greatly from a logistical standpoint.
Q: From your perspective, what value comes from the partnership of Divine Flavor and Unifrutti?
Tomas: There’s a tremendous amount of value for all parties involved. It’s a perfect match of getting the ultimate goal accomplished- supplying the best eating table grapes to the retailers and for their customers. Divine Flavor really understands the final customer very well. They are big growers themselves and they already know what to do. They know what we do and the vision we have for producing excellent quality table grapes backed up by experience and credibility. Divine Flavor is a 6-pillar company and we are committed to this as well. For Unifrutti, we try to not only meet the requirements but to be ahead of them.
Q: What is something unique about your grape operation in what you are doing?
Tomas: At Unifrutti, we are focused on newer varieties. We invest a lot of time and resources researching and doing test blocks or lot trails. We like to think of ourselves as pioneers in Chile when it comes to growing the newer varieties. For us and our partners (Divine Flavor), we want to offer customers the best of the best. We never want to do just the minimum but take the grape eating experience to the next level. Another factor is being cost affective in everything you do. The good grape companies manage but the best grape companies excel in every facet from having good packing houses, being strategic with yields, having all logistics mapped out, and having the passion to grow the perfect piece of fruit. This creates a lot of opportunity for our company or creates strong relationships with our partners.
Q: Which varieties are gaining more attention lately and which are your favorites?
Tomas: In general, consumers are wanting more white seedless. Especially in the category of newer varieties such as Autumn Crisp, Timpson, and Sweet Globe. These varietals are performing well in US markets and because they are great eating grapes. As for reds, Candy Hearts are becoming an important niche together with flavored varieties but Sweet Celebration is a great one wich has really good yields when in porduction, good sizes and always preferred by the costumers. As for black seedless, Sable is a solid choice and happens to be my favorite black seedless grape. My other favorites would have to be Timpson for white seedless because of the perfect mix of sugar, juiciness, and excellent texture, and Sweet Celebration for red.
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