The December freeze that hit California’s navel and mandarin crop particularly hard has resulted in pent-up consumer demand and opportunities for opposite-season importers.
The Chilean Fresh Fruit Association has already seen strong demand for its citrus entering the summer season, and Karen Brux, managing director, said she expects it to continue throughout the summer.
Adding to her optimism is that fruit quality from Chilean groves has been exceptional, she said.
“I was in a clementine orchard on May 14, and I was eating some really sweet, juicy fruit directly from the trees,” said Brux, who is based in San Carlos, Calif. “I’m confident that shoppers buying Chilean citrus will have a great experience with it and come back for more.”
The association plans to augment the eating experience and accompanying repeat sales with new point-of-sale materials. It also plans to work with retailers to customize programs to fit their individual needs.
“Our strength is working with retailers to design promotions that drive sales,” she said. “For one retail chain, that might mean joint demos to educate on new usages. For another chain, it could mean developing a program to incentivize produce managers to create beautiful displays. For yet another retailer, it could be a social media program to drive demand among their customers.”
Citrus is one of the top promoted produce items during the winter, and retailers can take advantage of that by carrying the momentum into the summer, Brux said.
“Kids who’ve been taking clementines as part of their school lunch can now take them to their summer camps or baseball games,” she said. “Families can take them on trips to the beach or the park as an easy, healthy snack.”
Retailers also can tie promotions into holidays, such as the Fourth of July, Back to School, Labor Day or even Halloween with some of the new usage ideas from the association, Brux said.
“Promoting summer citrus salsas, salads and grilled options are all ways of focusing more attention on citrus and giving consumers more reasons to add it to their shopping carts,” she said.
Like many other produce items, placing citrus displays in a prominent location within the produce department helps draw customers and spur purchases.
“That could mean just building a large display with mountains of citrus, displaying some point-of-sale cards with easy citrus ideas or adding a small display by the checkout stand,” Brux said.
Supplies of Chilean citrus overall are forecast to be slightly less than 2013, according to association estimates.
Navels exports to North America are expected to top 61,000 tons, down 4% from the previous season.
Although a September 2013 freeze and a continuing drought in Chile have reduced clementine volumes, demand remains strong. The association predicts that clementine exports to North America will be about 67,000 tons, down 10% from the previous year.
Nevertheless, as of the 19th week, Chile had loaded significantly more clementine tonnage than at the same time in 2013, Brux said.