Vertical Integration and Grape Flavors
By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor
Vertical integration, the combination in one company of two or more stages of production normally operated by separate companies, has helped lead to success in many facets of the agriculture industry. Harold McClarty, who founded HMC Farms with Mike Jensen, said without vertical integration, his farm would not be able to survive or have nearly the same level of success. “We would not be in stone fruit if we were not vertically integrated,” McClarty explained. “There are three profit centers: the growing of it, the packing of it and the selling of it. We have all three of those profit centers. Without them we would not be able to survive the tough years.”
McClarty also said the grape industry has made significant strides in flavor profiles in the marketplace. One popular flavor is Cotton Candy, which is grown and sold by Grapery, a company founded by Jack Pandol in 1996. Grapery also grows and sells Gum Drop grapes, Moon Drop grapes, Flavor Pops grapes and more.
The increase in unique flavors, according to McClarty, has helped grapes become a popular snack. “There’s been a revolution in the varieties of grapes grown just over the last five to seven years,” McClarty said. “These new varieties have revolutionized grapes and enabled us to produce more on less.
To evaluate a grape, McClarty suggests you “look at a berry’s color, crispness and sweetness; these are the things that make a grape taste delicious. It really is a revolution, and we haven’t seen it in the California marketplace as much as we have in the rest of the United States. The retail chains in California just haven’t embraced it as well as some of the really good supermarkets on the East Coast and in the Southeast,” noted McClarty.