Demand for pomegranates is increasing, and growth isn’t limited to whole fruit. The arils category grew more than 10% last season, said Michael Solomon, president of Los Angeles-based Pom Wonderful, which saw a 20% increase in sales of its Pom Poms Fresh Arils.
“Fresh arils make enjoying pomegranates easier than ever and are especially perfect for consumers who are intimidated by, or don’t have the time to open, a pomegranate,” he said.
Tom Tjerandsen, manager of the Sonoma, Calif.-based Pomegranate Council, said any time a packer adds convenience to a product there will be a segment of consumers who appreciate it.
“The arils packs clearly have expanded trial,” he said. “It’s easy to peel off the top and shake them onto a salad. Foodservice is often people’s first exposure to something new, and that’s helped as well.”
Tjerandsen said arils can help differentiate a traditional product, such as sprinkling arils on hot cereal.
Jim Perrion, sales manager for Slayman Marketing Inc., Bakersfield, Calif., said more pomegranates are showing up in foodservice because of the availability of fresh arils.
“They’re amazing in spinach salads and delectable in a glass of champagne,” he said. “Chefs want them in various things, and school districts are purchasing arils in 2-ounce cups. That’s a couple of handfuls for a kid. It’s really great. A lot of consumers don’t know what to do with a pomegranate and wouldn’t buy it. If they try arils, they’re more likely to buy the fresh product.”
Perrion said demand for arils also has helped California growers find a market for fruit that might not look good enough to go in a retail box or bin. The products aren’t all from that state, however. Ray England, vice president of marketing for D.J. Forry Co., Reedley, Calif., said the company offers its arils product — Sweet Bursts — year-round by sourcing from Peru and Chile as well as California.
Ruby Fresh, Firebaugh, Calif., introduced an arils package — Ruby Fresh Jewels — this summer. The snack cups are available in 4- and 5.3-ounce packages for retail and 2-ounce cups for school lunch programs. The company also offers a 16-ounce foodservice product.
“We’re quite excited,” said salesman David Anthony. “This gets kids exposed to the fruit, and that’s good for the pomegranate industry.”
Anthony said Aug. 28 that Ruby Fresh was shipping products with imported arils and would transition to California sources by mid-September.