Jensen’s Finest Foods, a group of eight supermarkets based in Palm Springs, Calif., allots about half as much space for citrus during the summer as it does during the winter, said Jim Madala, produce director who double as the stores’ produce buyer.
“In the summer, citrus displays are cut down so you can use more space for soft fruit,” Madala said.
But many consumers still prefer citrus during the warm-weather months, so Madala continues to offer a selection of navel oranges and other items.
He advertises them differently in summer than he does in winter, though.
While citrus may be a lead item in his winter ads, navels from South Africa or Australia would likely be a sub-feature in a summer ad, similar to a specialty item.
An exception may be if the fruit is especially sweet. Shoppers will buy citrus any time of year if the taste is there, he said.
In the past, B&R Stores, a Lincoln, Neb.-based chain of 19 supermarkets, “just pushed the citrus to the back” during the summertime, said Randy Bohaty, produce director.
But that has changed today.
“Now that we’ve got new seasons from around the world, new-crop product is so good-tasting and high quality that we jump on everything that’s available to us,” he said.
It began several years ago with South African and Australian navels, he said.
“Now you get tangelos, clementines and all kinds of stuff.”
If it’s available, the stores will pick it up, he said.
“We’ll take individual items and put them in promotional areas so customers know we have them.”
Bohaty tries to change shoppers’ perception that citrus is “off season” in the summer and doesn’t taste as good as it does during the fall and winter.
He does that by having tastings and supporting the fruit in ads.
The company usually advertises summer citrus about every other week.
“We try to limit our advertising to things that are going to bring people into the store,” he said.
Oranges usually are a feature item, he said, while other items are sub-feature items.
During the summer, B&R Stores typically offers navels, tangelos, lemons, limes, some minneolas and California grapefruit.
The stores summer citrus displays are about one-third to one-half the size of winter displays, Bohaty said.
Madala has noticed a change in the public’s perception of citrus imports at Jensen’s.
“Years back, shoppers were hesitant to buy imported citrus,” he said.
Now, it’s much more accepted, especially when it’s sampled.
“Customers sometimes ask for it by name,” he said, inquiring, for example, when the Australian navels will arrive.
Madala said point-of-sale material to call attention to summer citrus often is available from suppliers as well as from trade association websites.
B&R Stores sources summer citrus from several countries. Navels outsell valencias 5-to-1 during the summer at B&R Stores.
“(Imported navels) have really slowed down our valencia offerings considerably,” he said. “Valencias used to be our big push in the summertime, now they’re a small portion of our promotions and sales.”
Bohaty said his customers usually have no qualms about buying imported summer citrus.
“I don’t think people think of Australia, South Africa or Chile with any negative connotation,” he said.