Leading the charge on the marketing side is Los Angeles-based Pom Wonderful, the dominant force in pomegranates.
“They continue to field an aggressive program to support sales,” Tjerandsen said.
Brad Paris, vice president and general manager of produce for Pom Wonderful, said he expects hefty production growth in arils.
“It will be several multiples of last year,” he said.
“We have a new extraction method, new sorting equipment and a new set of cup fillers. Mechanical issues hurt us at the start of last year, and we’ve addressed those.”
A larger, earlier crop than last year will also boost Pom Wonderful, Paris said.
On the whole-fruit side, the company is offering retailers a new quarter-pallet-sized display bin as an alternative or complement to its standard half-pallet bin. The smaller bin becomes available in the second week of October, Paris said.
Pom Wonderful targets two audiences with the new bin: large retailers with room for a secondary display, and smaller retailers cautious about taking on half-pallet quantities.
California’s pomegranate production began the first week of August in the Wheeler Ridge area of the San Joaquin Valley, Tjerandsen said.
Early foothills harvest around Aug. 25; Angel Reds, or Smiths, in the second week of September; and wonderfuls around Oct. 5.
Wonderfuls make up more than 80% of California plantings, and typically continue into mid-November. Other varieties include granadas, foothills and early wonderfuls.
“The crop seems to be about two-and-a-half weeks earlier than last year,” said Atomic Torosian, managing partner for Fresno, Calif.-based Crown Jewels Produce.
He and grower Steve Barsoom of Ensher Alexander & Barsoom expected to start around Aug. 20 with early foothills. Barsoom grows about 1,000 acres of pomegranates packed under a joint label, Crown Jewels and E&A Farms.
“There was less rain in spring and summer so the product is coming on a bit earlier,” Torosian said.
“We’ll have good supplies for Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Jewish holidays.”
“It’s a year of exceptional quality,” Tjerandsen said.
“Right now we’re at the stage where we need particularly warm days and cool nights to get the deep red color buyers are looking for when they source pomegranates in California.”
Sizing may be down though, Simonian said, as frost damage hit some early blooms.