Americans have developed a preference for seedless produce, and citrus companies strive to maintain those expectations. The easy-peel mandarin and tangerine trend fits this bill and consumers continue to flock to the fruit.
“The seedless concept is an American concept. It’s how we want all of our fruit — grapes, watermelon, citrus. And it’s a consumer demand that goes against Mother Nature, so scientists have to cross hybrid varieties to get less and less seeds,” said Robert Schueller, director of public relations for World Variety Produce, Los Angeles, which markets under the Melissa’s label.
Seedless lemons are also making a pretty strong impact on the citrus category, suppliers said.
“Similar to Eureka and Lisbon lemons, Sunkist seedless lemons are used to enhance flavor in dishes without the hassle of removing the seeds,” said Joan Wickham, manager of advertising and public relations for Sunkist Growers, Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Marketers expect the trend to continue to grow.
“I think in about five or six years, all lemons will be seedless,” Schueller said.
So far, most companies haven’t seen any requests for seedless limes, but after the success of seedless increases, it isn’t an impossible idea.
“Chefs who use lemons and limes have to be careful about the seeds because of potential lawsuits. Sometimes they’ll even use a very thin cloth to protect the plate, which can be time consuming,” Schueller said.
In addition, seedless varieties are starting to affect the sales of seeded varieties.
“We know the valencia crop, which is seeded, has been impacted by imported navels,” said Scott Owens, vice president of sales and trade marketing for Paramount Citrus, Los Angeles. “The consumer wants seedless fruit, so I think we’ll see more and more citrus trending this way.”