Producers and processors of grapes and grape products in the U.S. have taken the first step toward working together on health-related research. Under the auspices of the National Grape and Wine Initiative (NGWI), scientific experts representing the table grape, juice, raisin and wine sectors, gathered recently in Watsonville, Calif. to develop strategies for expanding the research on and increasing awareness of the health benefits of grapes and grape products among consumers and health influentials.

Participants included representatives from the California Table Grape Commission, the California Raisin Board, the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, the National Grape Cooperative as well as senior researchers from major privately-held juice and wine companies.

"Grapes and grape products are known to contain an array of bioactive constituents that research indicates may be beneficial in maintaining health and possibly reducing the risk of certain diseases," said Tom Davenport, NGWI board chairman. "The goal of this meeting was to determine how, working together, we can focus and leverage our efforts in uncovering and truly defining that potential, so that consumers and industry can benefit from this knowledge."

A number of strategies for accomplishing this goal were outlined. One such initiative may involve showcasing the current science on grapes and grape products through a scientific symposium.

The NGWI is an industry-driven partnership - including academic, corporate and government representatives - drawn from all segments of the grape industry: table, juice, wine, and raisin grape growers and producers. The coalition's mission is to use research and extension as a means to strengthen the competitiveness of America's grape and grape product industries. NGWI has identified five priority areas in which to focus research: 1) improving product quality; 2) exploring and promoting the health benefits of grapes and grape products; 3) enhancing technologies for improved vineyard and production systems; 4) improving environmentally-friendly and sustainable farming and processing practices; and 5) ensuring industry member awareness of and access to grape and grape product research findings.