Some of the greatest innovations in the fresh produce sector happen by chance. This was certainly the case for Chilean table grape grower Chimenti, which hopes to bring a new innovation to UK retailers and consumers within the next four years
During harvesting of its Red Globe crop some eight years ago, Alfredo Chimenti Agri who runs family firm Chimenti Globe together with his son, Alfredo Chimenti Silva, made a surprising discovery.
In the midst of Red Globe vines at the family’s farm in Talagante, Chimenti Sr discovered a branch of the vine which had produced a cluster of grapes in a colour completely different to the rest, in this case pink compared with the dark red grapes surrounding it.
After taking some grapes home and receiving a positive response, Chimenti gave orders for the branch to remain untouched until the end of the season, after which time work on the new variety – a natural mutation – began in earnest.
As Chimenti Silva explains, the appearance of the pink grapes coincided with a visit to Europe alongside other Chilean exporters, where importers emphasised the need for varietal renewal and the importance of being able to offer new varieties to consumers.
At the same time, Chimenti was made aware of demand from China for red grape varieties, with the market said to be seeking fruit that was not as darkly coloured as Red Globe.
Given such promising market conditions, it is perhaps unsurprising that work began on trying to repeat the initial mutation in the Red Globe crop and the grower spent the following two years doing just that. With Pink Globe produced during successive seasons on the same vine amid darker Red Globe fruit, the firm focused on cultivating and producing initial volumes of the new variety.
With a distinctive, lighter appearance, white interior flesh with minimal acidity and, importantly, a brix level typically two-three grades higher than Red Globe of up to 21ºBx, it is easy to see why the new variety provoked so much excitement. Although not a seedless variety, Chimenti emphasises that Pink Globe has small, flat seeds, which are easy to eat and not bitter in taste.
Pink Globe also benefits from a slightly longer shelf life than Red Globe, so is well suited to being stored and transported long distances.
During the years that followed its discovery, Chimenti focused on securing the registration for Pink Globe in Chile and foreign markets, before completing the process in 2011.
Over an area of 15 hectares, Chimenti Globe is currently producing around 400 tonnes of the new variety per year, but the firm has its sights set on expanding to 200 hectares over the coming seasons.
However, the company’s ambition is not limited to Chile. As well as having production in Chile and neighbouring Peru (where Chimenti says the firm will be evaluating the results of the Pink Globe harvest over the next two-three seasons), overseas expansion is on the horizon.
Chimenti Globe has almost completed import registration for the variety in the US and South Africa, adding to registrations already secured in China, Egypt and Morocco. In Europe, the company has begun the process of registering the variety in major grape producing nations, such as Italy and Spain, and Chimenti says the firm is now searching for a partner to assist with Pink Globe’s worldwide development.
As an exporter, Chimenti Globe has maintained a presence in the UK, exporting kiwifruit, apples and other varieties of table grape, including Thompson Seedless, since 2000.
But will Pink Globe be making an appearance in British supermarkets anytime soon? Chimenti certainly wants it to happen and says the firm is currently applying for Chilean government funding to help introduce the variety to new markets. In fact, Chimenti’s confident prediction – based on the level of interest the variety has already received from UK importers – is that Pink Globe could make its debut on British supermarket shelves within the next four years.