Seedless lemons have a future in foodservice, as Future Fruit LLC sees it.
Peter Alvitre, a partner in the Visalia, Calif.-based citrus intellectual property company, collaborated with students in the agribusiness department of California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo. as they developed a marketing plan for the liora seedless variety.
The plan targets restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere.
The project earned a first-place finish for Cal Poly’s National Agricultural Marketing Association team at the National Agri-Marketing Association competition in Kansas City, Mo., in April.
The California university topped Purdue and 28 other rivals to win for the eighth time in 22 years.
“Our research showed that 70% of lemons go to foodservice,” said LeighAnne Thomsen, a Cal Poly senior who expects to graduate in June and start an internship at Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif.
“Since we’re introducing this as a brand new product, we decided we would go only to foodservice and high-end chefs and restaurants. They’re early adopters, and we thought they’d be more interested in what the lemon had to offer.”
Alvitre said Future Fruit will probably run with some of the students’ ideas.
“Components of that plan are extremely realistic,” he said.
“We will likely adopt them as we move forward with our own marketing strategy. The tie-in with restaurants, we’ll probably use that in the Bay Area and expand on it.”
Chefs and foodservice buyers would hear about convenience.
“Pros in that setting are always looking for something unique,” Alvitre said.
“The seedless lemon helps in that respect and with their bottom line. It gives them a unique and high-end commodity to work with in their presentation. Time is money, so the more plating they can do and not have to hassle with nuisances like seeds, the better.”
The Cal Poly team developed it as a three-year marketing plan that would expand into Las Vegas and Los Angeles after testing the waters in the Bay Area.
The plan would also use FohBoh, a social networking website for foodservice, to get the word out about liora.
The Cal Poly students included Thomsen, Cameron Baccariani, Becca Fisher, Lyndsay Guttchen, Taylor Hansard, Alison Hart, Jackey Jeffus, Hayley Loehr, Leanna Lynch, Alyssa Nichols, Jeremy Pagaran, Garrison Rajkovich, Rene Strle and Jacqueline Van Ruiten.
Alvitre took them on a tour of citrus country from Visalia to Bakersfield, with a stop at Porterville Citrus in Terra Bella, a Sunkist member packing house that Future Fruit provides for.
“Their presentation was phenomenal,” he said of the marketing plan.
“Those kids showed up. It showed a lot of dedication and commitment on their part.”
Limoneira and the University of California have also developed seedless lemon varieties.