Importers expect strong demand for Chilean clementines, especially early in the deal.
A combination of factors should lead to brisk movement at the outset of the Chilean clementine deal, said Mark Greenberg, president and chief executive officer of Capespan North America LLC, St. Laurent, Quebec.
“Demand at the start of the season is expected to be strong due to the early end of the domestic citrus season,” Greenberg said.
“Supply will not be enough to meet demand, and growers will be expecting high prices for their products.”
Peruvian clementines and a few satsumas will be available in May and June to help fill the pipeline, Greenberg said. Chilean clems should dominate the market in June, then share the market with South Africa in July.
Peter Anderson, imported citrus category manager for Vero Beach, Fla.-based Seald Sweet International, also expects strong markets.
“Demand will be good for initial arrivals, and demand will continue for clementines throughout their production period,” Anderson said.
Seald Sweet will help stoke demand with promotions tilted toward the latter end of the deal, said Kim Flores, the company’s marketing director.
“We’re promoting summer citrus programs in general, but also we will be heavily promoting our later variety mandarin and clementine varieties,” she said.
“These are the ‘creme de la creme’ of this category.”
The smaller size profile of this year’s crop will provide ample opportunities for promoting bag programs, Flores added.
A mid- to late May start to container arrivals of clementines from several Chilean growing areas is fairly typical, said James Milne, citrus category director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.
What’s far from typical in the 2014 season is the expected significant damage from severe freezes early in the growing season — and what affect they will have on demand.
“We’re still a bit concerned,” Milne said. “It will be a very robust market.”
“Robust” can of course be a good thing in many cases, but when prices get too high, shippers worry about movement stagnating as a consequence.
“Inventories could build throughout the month” because of retailers being scared away by high prices, Milne said.
He said there’s also the chance that, depending on how the freezes cut into volumes, there won’t be enough fruit for inventories to build, regardless of price.
“There could be a paucity of fruit right through June and into July,” Milne said.
The possibility of either scenario coming true — and Milne’s and other importers’ unwillingness to hedge their bets one way or the other — highlighted the uncertainty hanging over the Chilean deal as late as mid-April.
The Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, San Carlos, Calif., expects to stoke demand for Chilean clementines this summer with plenty of promotional support, said Karen Brux, the group’s North American managing director.
“This year, the committee will be offering POS cards, new citrus recipes for social media outreach and promotion support that can be customized to fit the needs of different retailers,” Brux said.
“I think our organization has been every effective in supporting retail social media efforts with great photography, usage ideas and nutrition info that retailers can turn around and post on their Facebook pages and websites.”
Some big U.S. retailers have over a million Facebook followers, Brux said, which makes it an important communication channel for the committee to spread the word about Chilean citrus.
In addition, the committee’s merchandisers will work with retailers across the U.S. and Canada to successfully merchandise and promote Chilean citrus.
“We also hope to partner again with Tajin on joint demos targeting the Hispanic community,” Brux said.
Last fall, the committee partnered with the maker of Tajin seasoning, a blend of chile peppers, salt and dehydrated lime juice made by Zapopan, Mexico-based Empresas Tajin, on in-store demonstrations promoting its products in mid-September at two retail chains with Hispanic customer bases.
Anaheim, Calif.-based Northgate Gonzalez Markets, which has more than 30 stores in Southern California, was one of the participating retailers. Citrus sales doubled there as a result of the promotion, according to the committee.
The committee also will work hard this summer to keep members of the trade informed with the latest updates on Chilean citrus with regular crop reports direct from the Chilean Citrus Committee.
“We believe this will be a great tool for giving importers, wholesalers and retailers accurate, up-to-date harvest and shipping information that will enable them to make informed sales and marketing decisions.”
California will ship a couple of weeks longer than anticipated, but the market should be mostly clear by the third week of May, said Matt Gordon, Chilean program manager for DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, Fla.
“That should allow for a strong start pricewise until South Africa and Peru arrive in early June,” Gordon said.