Winter proves boom time for fresh citrus - The Packer

Winter proves boom time for fresh citrus

01/19/2012 04:46:00 PM
Jim Offner

Citrus sales heat up every winter, according to marketing agents.

Much of that has to do with the nutritional value of the products, they say.

“Citrus in general, people think of more in the wintertime because it’s cold and flu season,” said Mike Martin, president of Mission, Texas-based grapefruit grower-shipper Rio Queen Inc.

“We always see a push in January because of the diet-conscious people after the holidays, but the old way has always been get your vitamin C from your citrus, and that’s still the case.”

A good-for-you message is central to the message of Mission-based TexaSweet Citrus Marketing Inc., said Eleisha Ensign, executive director.

“Texas Rio Star grapefruit has an amazing nutrition message,” she said.

“Grapefruit contains 100% of your daily requirement of vitamin C, is fat-free, and contains lycopene. We are working on spreading this message to kids across the U.S. to get them excited about eating Texas citrus.”

One means is by creating a video for kids that illustrates what Ensign called the “grove to plate story, how to make healthy snacks, and having a registered dietitian talk about the health benefits.”

The video will go across the U.S., she said.

“In certain Texas markets, we are even offering Texas grapefruit parties in the schools for participating in this program,” she said.

Nutrition also is a bedrock message at Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Sunkist Growers Inc., said Claire Smith, company spokeswoman.

“Sunkist has consistently educated consumers on the healthy benefits of snacking on and cooking with low calorie, fat-free, sodium-free, cholesterol-free fresh citrus,” Smith said.

“Our lemon campaign − the Sunkist S’alternative − shows how lemons provide a healthy and flavorful alternative to salt. This campaign has been very successful in informing dieticians and consumers alike to be mindful of their sodium consumption and to choose fresh lemons to enhance the flavor of their food instead of using salt.”

Smith said Sunkist also is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in promoting the MyPlate program.

“In our consumer outreach, we talk about ways to incorporate more fruits and vegetables in their diet, as well as touting recipe ideas on how citrus can be easily added to appetizers, entrees, desserts, drinks and snacks,” Smith said.

Karen Caplan, president of Frieda’s Inc., Los Alamitos, Calif., recently addressed the nutritional value of citrus on her blog,

“Last year I wrote about some wonderful things happening in the orange and mandarin world, and as each week or two goes by, different varieties become available in your local supermarket, and especially at the farmers market,” she wrote.

Caplan said in an e-mail that Frieda’s recommends cross-merchandising specialty citrus along with standard citrus commodities.

“This way, consumers are able to see the wide variety of citrus available to them while looking for their typical oranges and lemons,” she said.

“Consumers are looking for ways to incorporate more produce into their daily diets, and merchandising citrus in a large display will attract their attention, as well as their sales. Providing signage with the health benefits, nutritional content and usage suggestions also helps to attract consumer interest.”

The industry could do more to convey the nutrition message, said Andrew Brown, a grower and board member of California Citrus Mutual, Exeter.

“As a grower, I’d like to see more,” he said.

“I think there’s a real resurgence of people wanting to know what they’re putting in their bodies and living through (the) healthy eating kind of aspect. We know about the vitamin C and potassium aspect.”

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