New Year's traditions include grapes, black-eyed peas

When Teresa Callava heads to Walt Disney World for a New Year’s vacation with friends and family, she’ll be bringing plastic bags packed with 12 grapes, one bag per person.

For Callava, the Cuban tradition has been a ritual since childhood. Eating 12 grapes, one for each chime of the clock at midnight on New Year’s Eve —or for each month of the year — is meant to bring good luck for the coming year.

“I count them out myself and put them in the Ziploc bags,” said Callava, 55, who lives in Miami. “You don’t want to take any chances. I will take my grapes wherever I go. It has to be 12. If you eat 10 or 13 it’s like bad luck.”

For South Florida supermarket chains, that tradition boosts sales in the produce department.

Winn-Dixie sells between more than three times the typical volume of grapes during this week, said Tony Jorges, South Florida district manager.

The 40 Winn-Dixie stores in South Florida’s Hispanic markets account for about 30 percent of the entire company’s weekly grape sales.Publix estimates that its sales volume of grapes doubles in South Florida during the pre-New Year’s week.

“We work with our suppliers to make sure we’ve got enough in stock to meet the demands of our customers and help them celebrate,” said Kim Jaeger, a South Florida spokeswoman for Publix.

The demand is even more dramatic at Sedano’s, which caters to a heavily Hispanic clientele. The chain typically sells about 5,000 cases of grapes during the last week of the year compared to 1,000 cases during an average week, said Javier Herran, director of marketing for the 34-store chain. Over the years, many consumers have shifted from the traditional red globe grapes with seeds to the red seedless variety, which now represent about half the volume.

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