Expect additions to the summer citrus category in the coming years, from importers and from domestic grower-shippers.
The sweet meyer lemon program continues to expand as it gains popularity in the specialty category at Limoneira Co., Santa Paula, Calif., said Alex Teague, senior vice president and chief operating officer. But the big news is the eye-catching, variegated pink lemon.
“We think that’s a real winner on the high-end foodservice arena,” Teague said.
The fruit has a different flavor than a typical lemon — a bit of a grapefruit taste, he said.
“You can actually make pink lemonade without having to add color,” he said.
Pink lemons can be used for cooking as garnishes and in drinks.
“Chefs have loved it” when the company has shown it at food shows, Teague said.
So far, everyone who has seen it wants to buy it when commercial supplies are available, which likely will be in two to three years, he said.
The company started shipping some about a year ago, and the trees still are young, Teague said.
Limoneira likely will keep the fruit on the West Coast for a couple of years and then expand into other regions.
The company has about 50 acres of the new lemon, which typically is medium to small in size.
Limoneira’s proprietary seedless lemon program also is coming on very fast as lemon consumption increases around the world, Teague said.
The pink and the seedless varieties will be available year-round, and both are grown in the coastal growing region and in the San Joaquin Valley.
Next year, Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Oviedo, Fla., expects to add cara cara navel oranges from Chile to its summer program, said Paul Huckabay, Western citrus sales manager.
The trees are still young, but Huckabay said customer demand is driving the cara cara deal.
“They want more varieties of citrus,” he said.
Buyers have seen the California cara caras perform well during the winter, he said, and they hope to see a strong performance during the summer, as well.
The same Chilean growers who produce the company’s regular navels will offer the cara caras.
Duda Farm Fresh Foods will be able to offer cara caras in half-cartons or high-graphic bags, which many retailers request in order to distinguish them from regular navels.
The company makes every effort to fill the needs of its customers, Huckabay said.
“If there is demand for citrus that we are not bringing in, we can make adjustments to source it and have it available during the summer,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chilean growers continue to look at technologies that help prevent seeds from showing up in clementines and mandarins, said Tom Tjerandsen, managing director of North America for the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, Sonoma, Calif.
The seed problem, which has to do with pollen drift, has vexed California growers, as well, he said.
Finally, The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, will import “small, trial quantities” of tango mandarins grown in Chile and Peru, said James Milne, director of marketing and citrus category director.
The fruit, similar to those grown in California, are “a true seedless clementine,” he said.