Charlotte, N.C.-based Dole Food Co. is now a year-round supplier of grapes, with production in Mexico, California, Peru and Chile, said Bil Goldfield, the company’s director of corporate communications.

Getting to that point was not a process Dole rushed, Goldfield said.

“We spent years of research and planning to select the suitable varieties and farmers to partner with that we are confident would provide our consumers with a consistent crunch and flavor experience.”

The process started in South America, with Dole reviewing more than 20 new grape varieties before deciding which would make the final cut, Goldfield said. Shelf-life longevity, flavor and appearance were the main factors the company used in making its decisions.

“We then used this analysis in our selection process to ensure that we chose the best quality grapes consumers would love.”

Choosing the grapes that have the best flavor, shelf life and appearance is just part of the larger process of getting fruit into the hands of consumers, Goldfield said. Optimizing product for retail is a constant work in progress, and emphasizing the power of the Dole brand is central to those efforts.

“We’re continuously working with our retail partners to help ensure effective merchandising,” he said. “We believe many retail customers would like the consistency of one brand for a cleaner merchandising look and would benefit from the value that the most trusted brand in produce can bring.”

Dole offers category insights, merchandising expertise and trade promotions, including targeted digital ads, targeted online marketing, and cross-promotion opportunities, he added.

The grape category is in an exciting transition period of new varietal development, yet category growth remains flat. Dole is on a mission to change that with its branded program, Goldfield said.

“We believe the grape category should see growth at about a 10% rate, similar to berries, as they share many of the same product characteristics: finger foods, portable, flavorful, and rich in antioxidants,” he said. “As we look at the future of grapes, we’re excited about our partnerships, innovation, varietals and new packaging opportunities.”