Retailers look forward to the arrival of California and Arizona citrus each fall just as their customers do.
At the Weber’s IGA store in Sedona, Ariz., store manager Dave Miller said he sees a 30% increase in citrus sales in the winter compared to summer.
“You have soft fruit in the summer, apples in the fall, and the things you really expand on are citrus in the winter,” he said.
“You’ll see citrus challenge the apples at that time just because of price point,” he said.
“That’s the peak of their season, it’s when they’re least expensive and that’s when they’re promotable,” Miller said.
The store adds a couple of end cap displays when California-Arizona citrus starts arriving and expands its shelf presentation, Miller said.
Navels are the most popular citrus item at Weber’s IGA, but clementines also are good sellers along with pink grapefruit.
Lemons and limes may be available year-round, but they’re less expensive during the winter, Miller said.
“People change their diets and start using more citrus in their cooking and snacking,” he added.
Miller caters to his customers’ needs by featuring citrus on ad every week, either as a feature or sub-feature item.
He said he’s seen a definite increase in the volume of mandarins the store sells.
“The mandarins and the clementines are definitely becoming a snack option,” he said.
Rouses Markets, a 43-store chain based in Thibodaux, La., kicks off the fall/winter season with local citrus and some Florida grapefruit and tangerines, said Joe Watson, director of produce.
But then the stores transition to citrus from California and Arizona.
From a tonnage standpoint, navels are the No. 1 citrus item, Watson said, but he added, “The varietals have certainly picked up over the past three to five years.”
Branded clementines like Halos and Cuties are especially popular.
“We’re seeing bigger growth percentage-wise in the varietals than we are in the mainline varieties,” Watson said. “They help the overall category grow.”
Meyer lemons also are a big hit at Rouses Markets, he said, and cara cara navels were the No. 1 growth item last year.
Rouses features citrus on ad at least once every other week during the fall/winter season.
Miller said Weber’s IGA shoppers “most certainly” look forward to domestic fruit when the summer import deal is over.
“The citrus category in the summertime will not be a top 10 category for us,” he said, but it’s one of the top five categories from October to March.
Weber’s IGA offers bulk citrus as well as 2- and 5-pound bags, Miller said.
“With the single items, people get to go through and make their own personal selection on quality,” he said.
The store also carries some organic citrus.
Rouses’ customers like large fruit, so Watson merchandises lots of lemons and navels in bulk displays. But stores also offer 5-pound bags of lemons from time to time and feature 8- or 10-pound bags of navels for holiday promotions.
The stores regularly display at least one organic orange variety along with organic lemons and sometimes grapefruit.
In all, the chain probably features four or five kinds of organic citrus each season, including bags, Watson said.