Lemons are much more than just an ingredient in lemonade or lemon meringue pie.

It is a highly versatile fruit that Limoneira wants retailers, foodservice and consumers to embrace, not just for its flavor but also for its myriad other uses.

The Santa Paula, Calif.-based lemon grower-packer has kicked off the “Unleash the Natural Power of Lemons” initiative to educate retailers and consumers about the multipurpose tart

citrus variety that also is available year-round.

But Limoneira isn’t the only one that believes lemons have untapped potential.

The Boulder, Colo.-based Sterling Rice Group named lemons No. 1 of the top 10 tasty food trends for 2014.

“Lemon — the often-underappreciated bright side of dressings, sauces, and more — will step into the spotlight in 2014,” Kazia Jankowski, the group’s associate culinary director, wrote. “Lemon is pure. Lemon is versatile. Lemon is nostalgic. For those reasons, it — and not other citrus — will be the flavor of next year.”

John Chamberlain, director of marketing for Limoneira, who visited New York city in mid-May, said lemons are quickly gaining a following as natural cleaning agents.

“One of our New York opinion leaders, the Cleaning Expert, did an entire cleaning program with Limoneira lemons because a lot of people are trying to avoid some of the standard cleaners because of all of the toxins in them,” he said.

Also known as Saudia Davis, the Cleaning Expert is founder and CEO of GreenHouse Eco-Cleaning and a regular contributor to HGTV magazine.

When limes were in short supply and pricy earlier this year, Chamberlain said Limoneira worked with mixologists to develop mixed drinks that used lemons instead.

Among the offerings were meyer lemon mojitos, rosemary lemon margaritas and meyer lemon mai tais.

Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Sunkist Growers also has seen increased demand for lemons, particularly for summertime entertaining and for creating new mixed drinks.

“With mixology becoming more popular in restaurants and bars, many consumers are now trying their hand at artisan cocktail making at home,” said Joan Wickham, manager of advertising and public relations. “From unique lemonades to mixed drinks, Sunkist is developing fun cocktail recipes that consumers can make at home to ‘zest up’ their summer entertaining.”

The grower-cooperative plans to promote use of lemons for summertime meals and entertaining through consumer recipes and tips.

Through its S’alternative campaign, Sunkist helps educate consumers concerned about high blood pressure that squeezing fresh lemon juice on their favorite dish instead of using salt helps lower sodium intake.

Sunkist also offers retailers merchandising assistance through secondary display units. By putting lemons elsewhere in the store, such as in front lobbies, in the liquor department or by the seafood case, retailers can drive incremental sales, Wickham said.

In addition, the citrus co-op provides citrus usage tips, recipes and nutritional information through point-of-sale materials and on mobile sites accessible via quick-response codes on those materials.

Aside from conventional lemons, Sunkist offers year-round supplies of meyer, seedless and organic lemons, and limited supplies of the pink-variegated Zebra lemons from groves in California and Arizona, she said.