What is in this article?:
- Lots of Citrus: New Varieties Spur Sales
- Specialty Produce Sales Pick Up
- Merchandising Citrus
- Grapefruit Purchases Plummet
- Sidebar: USDA Says Domestic Citrus Crop in Good Shape
New varieties, better imports, resilient growers, creative marketing and consumers eating healthier all foretell good sales ahead
Winter citrus is no longer winter citrus.
Nowadays, picked-sweet citrus is available nearly year-round, retailers told SN.
There was a time when consumers anticipated the arrival of the sweetest oranges and tangerines around Thanksgiving and into the holiday season.
Now, just about every variety’s selling season has been stretched on both ends, thanks to quality imports, more growers, better growing operations and increased distribution. As a result, consumers have an almost constant, varied menu of citrus products.
“It’s no longer seasonal. Imports have changed that,” said Tommy Wilkins, director of produce procurement at 50-unit United Supermarkets, Lubbock, Texas.
“We’re getting better-eating fruit these days from Australia, Chile and Peru. When the California navel oranges begin to dwindle, there’s not much of a gap anymore. They go into early June, and then we pick up with imported ones.”
Clementines, too, are a good example, Wilkins told SN.
“Say, five years ago, we’d normally get them the first week in November and have them till May. Now, with good imports from Chile, we have at least 10 months of clementines.”
At one Northeast retailer, clementines are the big sales item right now.
“Sales of them start growing in September, but by December, they peak,” said Tony Mirack, produce buyer/merchandiser at three-unit McCaffrey’s Market in Langhorne, Pa.
“But January is still very good, and then, drops a little in February and March. The season has stretched.”
New varieties, too, continue to make their way into supermarkets, keeping customers interested.
Such items as seedless lemons, for instance, will soon take the spotlight at Rouses Markets, Thibodaux, La.
“We’ll be getting them just about now,” said Joe Watson, produce director at 40-unit Rouses.
“They’ve done very well for us the last couple of years. We set a display right at the front of the department, and that grabs customers’ attention. Then, they come farther in and buy more citrus and other produce.”
Gallery: Rouses in the Big Easy
What’s particularly interesting, Watson said, is that seedless lemons don’t affect the sales of the regular lemons.
“It’s all incremental sales.” And that’s with a retail price that’s 20% to 40% higher than for regular lemons.
Another citrus item, not long ago considered exotic — Meyer lemons — sells well at Rouses, and they’re priced even higher than the seedless lemons. Rouses is promoting Meyers right now with an up-front display, and soon will set seedless lemons right alongside them.
Meyer lemons are also a common sight at McCaffrey’s.
“Five years ago, you couldn’t find a Meyer lemon, now they’re more and more easily available,” Mirack said. “There are more vendors and the big people [growers and distributors] are getting into them.”
The Meyer lemon has a thin skin, more juice and is less acidic.
“Some people call them cooking lemons,” Mirack said. McCaffrey’s retails them at $2.99 a pound, loose.