With sky-high lime prices falling back down to earth comes a returning opportunities to promote the green citrus for summertime entertaining, lime importers and marketers say.
“There are plenty of limes,” said Ronnie Cohen, vice president of sales for Vision Import Group, River Edge, N.J. “Break out the beers. Break out the mojitos. Let’s go!”
Barring unforeseen weather, Cohen said retailers can expect promotable volumes throughout the summer.
Traditionally, that season has seen strong demand for limes as people entertain and cook, using limes in beers, marinades and cerviche, he said.
Over the years, lime consumption has continued to increase partly because of the growth of Latino and Asian populations, both of which are high lime users, he said.
In addition to bulk limes, Vision Import Group is test marketing value-added 1-pound sleeves of about four limes and 2-pound high-graphic handled pouches, Cohen said. Both carry the “Mojito” brand.
“Right now, we’re bringing them into the smaller market and testing them out in stores,” he said. “Each store in each area is unique so we’re trying to tailor it to that.”
Lime prices began to climb in December 2013 and had increased several-fold by mid-April. On April 14, for example, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service reported prices of $100 per 40-pound carton for sizes 110s to 175s of Mexican limes crossing through Texas, with a few fetching as much as $120 per box.
They continued in tight supply until shortly before Cinco de Mayo, one of the largest holidays of the year for limes, before volumes started to increase and prices began to decline.
On May 1, the AMS reported prices of about $80 per box for 110s, down to $70-$75 for 175s.
By May 15, prices had dropped to $45-$50 for 110s and $25-$30 for 175s. Smaller fruit, such as 200s, was netting about $10 per carton, with a few going for as little as $8 apiece.
Among the reasons for the temporary shortage were winter storms along the Gulf Coast, poor bloom, drug cartel activity in the Michoacán province and citrus greening — a bacterial disease harmless to humans but devastating to citrus trees — in the Colima province.