FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Grapefruit with higher-than-average sugar levels has prompted DNE World Fruit Sales to start shipping its grapefruit under the Ocean Spray brand several weeks earlier than usual.

DNE also plans to expand the number of retailers in its annual cross-merchandising promotion with bags of Ocean Spray grapefruit and grapefruit juice from Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., Middleboro, Mass.

Instead of starting shipping of Ocean Spray fruit in late November, DNE plans to start shipments in early November, said Kevin Swords, Florida citrus sales manager.

Swords said the Indian River region has seen strong brix levels during early harvesting, which began in early October.

Grower-shippers report this season’s brix returning to 10-plus and in some cases exceeding 11 levels.

DNE is expanding the promotion from 5,000 participating retailers to 8,000 supermarkets this season, said Mark Hanks, vice president of North American sales and marketing.

“With the swine flu and all of the illnesses that are being reported, this is a unique promotion for us that helps stimulate grapefruit sales,” he said.

Also, more shoppers are using coupons to save money because of the down economy.

“Even the die-hard shoppers are going into stores with coupons they have cut out,” Hanks said.

The promotions, which run for one week at each participating retail chain, end in January.

In the promotion, shoppers who buy two containers of Ocean Spray grapefruit juice or juice drinks receive an instant redeemable coupon good for a free 5-pound bag of fresh grapefruit valued at $2.99.

Last year, the deal helped boost fresh and juice sales by 20%-25%, Hanks said.

Hanks said the promotion usually gives supermarkets three to four weeks of incremental sales increases. 

DNE plans to ship around 2 million cartons of Florida grapefruit, oranges and tangerines in the promotion, similar to last year.

DNE, which began its branding relationship with Ocean Spray in 1997, owns four Florida packinghouses and markets for six others.

DNE to increase grapefruit, juice retail cross-promotion

DNE World Fruit Sales

Image Caption DNE World Fruit Sales, which ships fresh grapefruit under the Ocean Spray label, plans to expand a promotion in which consumers who buy Ocean Spray juice receive a free 5-pound bag of grapefruit.