I made a great local produce discovery this fall. While browsing at nearby Sunshine Market, I picked up some BC-grown table grapes of a variety previously unknown to me. Small and virtually seedless, with a sweet pulp, offset by the tangy flavour of healthy-looking purple skins delivering a surprising flavour burst. We have since tried them on cereal, in smoothies, in salads and as part of a rocking lime/kiwi salsa for barbecued halibut.
Unfortunately, this discovery may remain secret for some time. I don’t think most people would have made it past the drab industrial label and yawn-inducing name. Wait for it:
Where is the connection? The last coronation affecting Canada took place in 1953. (Queen Elizabeth, in her young-Audrey-Hepburn period) This sounds like a product my Aunt Phyllis would have on her tea tray. It’s a name only a British soap-opera fan could love.
Not wanting to gripe without offering at least a token solution, I got curious and visited the BC Grape Growers website to find out more. Turns out this particular variety was actually invented in Summerland, BC. It’s the most abundantly-planted table grape in the Okanagan, and you can use them in any berry recipe.
A grape with this much kick-ass flavour and genuine local roots has a lot of options for rebranding. Start with the colour. The size. The delicate velvety ‘bloom’ on their surface. Or go right to their origins. Even the obvious ‘Summerland Grapes’ would be an improvement, offering visions of glowing vineyards and a direct connection to their history. But I’m sure even more could be done with a little thought (and a few glasses of wine).
Start with a more intriguing package design, with the local story and a link to more info and recipes right on the box. Then take the marketing outwards. Locavore restaurants could feature these grapes as appetizers, in desserts, salsas and on ice cream. (Or in a glass of vodka! The Summerland Grapetini!) Make them part of BC wine festivals. Design a kooky claymation character to sing and dance their praises on YouTube. Anything, for crying out loud, that will break peoples’ habit of mindlessly reaching for the massive-carbon-footprint-foreign-jumbo-mutant-grape-bunches offered up in every big box mart.
I am one of the rare ‘committed local’ buyers who will go out of my way to try produce that didn’t rack up more air miles than my last three vacations. But the mainstream will need something more inspiring than ‘Coronation’ to shift their buying habits. BC Grape Growers, you have my number.
God save the grape.
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