Citrus marketers leverage newer lemon varieties

01/25/2013 10:30:00 AM
Cynthia David

Slowly but surely, new lemon varieties are squeezing their way into supermarkets.

Take the seedless lemon, a favorite of chefs and bartenders for more than a decade.

“It’s now a huge trend with mainstream appeal,” said Robert Schueller, director of public relations for Los Angeles-based World Variety Produce Inc., which markets the Melissa’s brand. The company has ramped up its supply in recent years.

“At the rate it’s going, it may replace the traditional lemon,” Schueller said.

Grown from a natural hybrid that doesn’t produce seeds, these lemons are available year-round, he said. The season traditionally peaks in winter and early spring.

Though more consumers are demanding the convenience of seedless fruit, Leland Wong, director of marketing for Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Sunkist Growers, says the cooperative will carry it in “very limited quantities” this season.

Wong said another lemon to watch is the pink variegated lemon.

Schueller says this heirloom variety, sweet and tart with pink flesh and green-streaked skin, is available sporadically at high-end retailers, and is a favorite during the holidays.

He’s also promoting the big, bumpy ponderosa lemon, a thick-skinned lemon with lots of juice and seeds that’s available from December through February.

Meyer lemons, meanwhile, with their thin skin and lemon-tangerine flavor, have burst onto supermarket shelves in the past few years and are now widely available from several growers in 1- or 2-pound pouches or mesh bags.

Schueller said Melissa’s meyers have enjoyed double-digit growth in the past four years, and the company is importing the sweet lemons from New Zealand to supplement the short domestic season, which ends in the spring.

Oviedo, Fla.-based Duda Farm Fresh Foods recently launched meyer tote bags under the Dandy label with a call to action to entice consumers at the point of purchase and beyond.

Director of marketing Nichole Towell said consumers can text ‘Sweet’ to 99-000 to access recipes, tips and information that should motivate them to make a repeat purchase.

John Chamberlain, director of marketing for Limoneira Co. in Santa Paula, Calif., said the grower-shipper’s new stand-up meyer bag is biodegradable with a zip top and a quick-response code that takes consumers to icons featuring everything from the company’s history to lemon-based beauty and cleaning tips.

While meyer acreage is increasing in California, Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, said the thin-skinned lemon is easily bruised in transit, making it difficult to ship and handle.



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