Jim Beagle had a sugary hit on his hands last year. California’s exclusive grower of Cotton Candy Grapes was inundated with email requests for the crunchy fruit with the unmistakable fairground flavor.
Buyers couldn’t get to the handful of grocery chains such as Gelson’s and Sprouts Farmers Market that carried the grapes. So Beagle, chief executive of the Grapery in Bakersfield, started a home-delivery service called GraperyDirect.com that mails a bunch overnight using FedEx.
Beagle was approached by a slew of retailers, including Wal-Mart, asking to carry the grapes, which were bred over years to taste like cotton candy. Beagle had to decline most of the offers, unable to grow enough to satisfy big-box retailers.
“It was insane,” said Beagle, who is currently harvesting his grapes. “We got hundreds of emails a day from consumers and every retailer in the country, every produce broker, every middle man and everyone else in between. Our hair was on fire.”
Delivering direct allows Beagle to slowly fill the gaps in demand that aren’t being satisfied by the mostly high-end grocery stores his company partners with.
The Grapery will ship anywhere in the U.S., though there’s a flat $12 shipping rate for California, parts of Nevada and the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas.
Beagle said he recently connected with Cain, who is developing more novelty grapes, including one that’s described as a mix of raspberry and lemonade.
“It’s in the early stages,” Beagle said. “He’s a couple years away.”
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