(UPDATED COVERAGE, Aug. 23) Sunkist Growers has reached an agreement to source Texas grapefruit exclusively from Mission-based Lone Star Citrus Growers.
Production is expected to start in early October.
“We hope to double or triple our Texas grapefruit volume over the next few years,” said Claire Smith, director of corporate communications for Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Sunkist.
Last season, the company shipped about 350,000 cartons from the state. That was part of a 3 million-carton total that included California and Arizona.
Sunkist ships Texas grapefruit nationwide but primarily to the Midwest and West Coast, Smith said. Some also goes to export. The season runs through April.
“We had multiple sources in the past but now have one source of supply in an effort to gain focus and alignment in an effort to expand our program,” Smith said.
The agreement is on an annual basis, like Sunkist agreements with other growers.
Lone Star Citrus is a five-year old company about to start its sixth season with Sunkist, said T.J. Flowers, one of three partners in the company.
“Our business has grown with them every year,” he said. “Now that we have the exclusive rights to their Texas program, we’re very excited and hopeful that it will bring good business to them and to us.”
Lone Star Citrus grows, packs and ships Rio Star variety red grapefruit. Grapefruit is about 80% of its volume; the rest is oranges.
“Lone Star has about a 20% market share in the South Texas production area for grapefruit and oranges,” Flowers said. “Sunkist has an extensive customer base as do we, but we’re going to work together to cast a wider net.”
The company will continue to offer grapefruit under its Texas Red label, and oranges under the Texas Sweetie label.
Sunkist Growers has offered Texas grapefruit since 2001.