David Marguleas, CEO of Sun World: The global grape industry is in the midst of a profound transformation
un World is one of the most recognized names in the global fruit breeding industry. Since its establishment in California in 1976, the company has become a hugely influential force in the world of new table grape and stone fruit varieties.
One of the key people at the organization’s helm over the decades has been David Marguleas. Having studied Communications and Food Marketing at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture from which he received his bachelor’s degree, he joined Sun World a decade after its founding by his father, working in different areas of the business, which at the time was a grower-marketer involved with around 250 produce items. In 1989, Sun World made a pivotal move into varietal breeding through the acquisition of Superior Farming Company, a development that brought fruit breeding into the Sun World portfolio and tripled the company’s size almost overnight. The younger Marguleas immediately latched onto the opportunity to use the breeding program and proprietary varieties that came from it as a strong differentiator globally.
Thirty years later, and after numerous metamorphoses reshaping the company’s product line, ownership and business strategy but never veering far from its commitment to innovation, in 2019, Sun World announced that it was divesting its farming and marketing operations to focus entirely on breeding new fruit varieties and licensing them to producers around the world, with Marguleas at the same time moving from Executive Vice President to CEO. Then earlier this year the remaining part of the business was acquired by British private equity investment group Bridgepoint.
We spoke with the industry leader about the thinking behind some of Sun World’s most recent announcements, what the future holds for some key mature and emerging production regions, and the widespread disruption that the grape industry faces as it moves into a new chapter.
From the November edition of Vision Fruticola magazine